Over 3pc of all homes owned by city and county councils around Ireland were vacant at the end of last year, according to a new report by the local authority watchdog.
Figures published by the National Oversight and Audit Commission show that 4,448 local authority dwellings were unoccupied last December out of a total housing stock of 141,483 owned by councils – a vacancy rate of 3.2pc which was effectively unchanged from the previous year.
The annual review by NOAC of the performance of the country’s 31 local authorities showed the number of homeless adults living in emergency accommodation rose by over 9pc over the same period.
NOAC also revealed that the average time taken to re-let council homes has been increasing steadily since 2018 and averaged almost eight months in 2021.
The report showed vacancy rates in council housing exceeded 7pc in Longford and Galway County – over twice the national rate.
Above-average vacancy rates were also found in Cork County (5.3pc), Cavan (4.7pc) and Cork City (4.4pc) with over 850 council homes vacant across Cork city and county.
In Dublin, where the country’s housing crisis is most acute, the vacancy rate ranged from 1pc in South Dublin to 2.8pc in the administrative area covered by Dublin City Council.
Across the four local authority areas in Dublin city and county there were almost 1,000 council-owned homes without a tenant in situ, including almost 700 homes in the area under the control of Dublin City Council.
Over 220 council homes were also vacant in Limerick while just under 200 homes were vacant in Wexford, Wicklow and Galway County.
The lowest vacancy rate in the Republic was recorded by Monaghan County Council where just 0.8pc of its housing was unoccupied last December.
NOAC said that while it understood there was always a level of turnover of council-owned rental properties, it stressed that “every effort should be made by local authorities to ensure the stock is utilised to the greatest extent possible to meet the demand and needs of applicants on the housing waiting list.”
The latest figures show the total stock of council housing rose by almost 2pc last year through the net addition of around 2,600 properties including 392 in Dublin city (+1.6pc), 387 in Cork county (+5.3pc) and 154 in Kildare (+3.2pc).
Local authorities constructed or acquired an additional 3,045 homes in 2021 but a further 367 were sold and 79 were demolished.
It was the lowest annual net increase in recent years which peaked in 2019 with 5,619 new council-owned dwellings, although the decrease is attributed to lower construction activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.