Home ownership at lowest rate since 1971, 180,000 homes vacant: Ireland's housing crisis laid bare

The CSO Housing statistics paint a bleak picture of Ireland's housing policy

Shannon Valley, a partial ghost estate Photo: Douglas O’Connor

Catherine Devine

New figures released by the Central Statistic's Office (CSO) have shown the stark reality of Ireland's housing crisis.

The figures reveal that more than 180,000 homes are currently vacant, while rent in Dublin has soared by 30 per cent.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Here is everything you need to know:

Vacant homes

The new housing figures show that 183,312 homes are currently vacant as well as 62,148 holiday homes.

In regards to the 183,312 vacant dwellings, 79,966 were detached houses, 60,154 were semi-detached or terraced dwellings while the remaining 43,192 were apartments.

CSO housing profile

According to the figures, Cavan (46.4pc) has the most vacant homes followed by Leitrim (45.6pc) and Kerry (43.1pc).

Among larger towns (population of 10,000 or more) Letterkenny (14.9pc), Longford (14.6pc) and Ballina (14.3pc) ranked highest in terms of vacancy.

Number of new builds

Surprisingly, housing growth - which relates to the number of builds - grew by only 0.4pc between 2011 and 2016, with 8,800 new homes.

This is in sharp contrast to the 225, 232 homes built between 2006 and 2011.

These figures come as recent property statics show that housing prices have risen by 11pc per year.

House ownership

The number of people who own houses fell slightly from 69.7pc in 2011 to 67.6pc in 2016.

It's the lowest overall rate since 1971

When examined by age the results show that renting was more common than owning before the age of 35.

Beyond this, more householders owned rather than rented their home. The equivalent age in previous censuses was 32 years in 2011, 28 years in 2006, 27 years in 2002 and 26 years in 1991.

Renting costs have soared

The average cost of renting in April 2016 was €199.92, up from €171.19 (16.8pc) in 2011. The highest growth in rent was in Dublin City which increased by almost 30pc while rises in excess of 20pc were also recorded in Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown (26.2pc), Fingal (22.8pc), South Dublin (22.7pc) and Kildare (20.3pc).

Government reaction

Housing Minister Simon Coveney said 33,000 new builds since 2011 but the overall increase in stock is 8,800.

"A lot of the new builds are once-off houses in the countryside. We're seeing some stock that were previously ghost estates coming back into stock," Mr Coveney told RTE Radio One.

"We have fundamental structural problems in our housing structure and that is why the state has committed €5.5bn to social housing building."

Mr Coveney said that people "can't expect it to be solved overnight".

"We are seeing a dramatic increase in house building in Ireland mainly around the cities. It will take time."

Charity reaction

Roughan Mac Namara of Focus Ireland said that action needs to be taken "urgently" on the number of vacant homes.

"We need action to get the vacant homes that are suitable back into the active housing stock as urgently as possible.

"The Government really need to look at introducing stronger measures to encourage property owners to get empty homes back into the active housing stock. This could include a tax on empty homes. There also needs to be stronger action to take account of developers hoarding land as we need to fast-track housing delivery through building as well as not all empty properties will be suitable for use as a home for a number of reasons including standard and location of the property.’"

The most recent government figures for February show a record total of 7,421 people who are homeless in Ireland- a shocking total of 2,546 of these are children.

Focus Ireland said the crisis continues to deepen as huge members of families are still losing their homes and more action is required to prevent this and to also fast-track delivery of housing through a range of measures including getting suitable empty homes back into the active housing stock and providing homes for people.

The Peter McVerry Trust housing and homeless charity said politicians and policymakers need to recognise that empty homes can immediately alleviate the country's housing crisis.

Spokesman Francis Doherty said: "The quickest and most efficient way of making more homes available is to get empty homes back into use.

"Peter McVerry Trust has been identifying and turning around empty properties for the last three years and we know it can be done.

"If the resources are made available it can be delivered on a much larger scale."

What can be done to solve the housing crisis?

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities called on the Government to introduce a number of proposals.

"The Government must consider the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and the introduction of Compulsory Leasing Orders (CLOs); given the devastating scale of the housing and homeless crisis. CLOs would enable Local Authorities to seek permission to force a lease on the owner of an empty home. Local Authorities would then undertake refurbishment costs to make the property ready for letting.

"The property would act as social housing and the rent paid used to offset the cost of refurbishment. It is important that any such measures are reasonable and targeted.

"Governments must ensure the building and delivery of sustainable social and affordable housing output. People must have homes so that they can live their lives."