New housing figures for January jump
CONSTRUCTION of new houses jumped more than a half in January compared with the same month last year.
The figures give a boost to a sector that has suffered a fall in residential production by at least one-fifth every year since 2007.
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Fingal, Galway county, Carlow, Meath and Wicklow had the most housing starts.
Despite the increase, the number of houses that were actually completed continued to decline in January. Nearly one-fifth fewer houses were finished in the month compared with January 2012, according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).
The CIF says activity is picking up in urban areas but rural areas are suffering from an "overhang" from too many houses still on the market.
This was evidence of the "two-speed nature" of the residential market at present, the body said.
"The CIF has forecasted a further decline in house building activity for 2013 but the number of new house starts is very positive," CIF director Hubert Fitzpatrick said.
"It won't be enough at this point to help alter the number of units completed this year but if the increase was repeated in the coming months, then any decline in activity for 2013 will be minimal."
The construction body said the figures reflected increased demand for housing in urban areas and that building should ramp up as vacant properties continue to fall in these locations.
The CIF says that banks need to make funding available for viable housing projects in the places they are needed to help the market return to a more sustainable level.
The CIF Housing Bulletin shows that 342 new houses were started in January, compared with 220 in the same month last year.
Some 511 units were completed, compared with the 627 houses finished last January. Despite this drop, some parts of the country recorded increases in the number of houses completed, including Limerick city and county, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Galway city, Louth and Wicklow.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal the output of housing dropped by almost one-fifth in both 2012 and 2011. Production has been falling since 2007.
The decline was most extreme in 2009, when production fell by just under 60pc.