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Thursday 17 January 2019

Number of new homes built 'overstated by some 5,000 units a year'

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Paul Melia

Paul Melia

THE number of new homes built has been overstated by some 5,000 units a year, new figures reveal.

An analysis of house and apartment completions by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that just 14,446 new units were built in 2017 – some 4,825 fewer than previously believed.

Currently, new builds are calculated based on the number of domestic dwellings connected to the ESB network.

However, there have long been concerns that these numbers have been over-stated, as they include homes re-connected after being vacant for at least two years, farm buildings, and so-called ghost estates.

The Department of Housing figures, based on ‘raw’ ESB numbers, suggested that 19,271 homes were completed last year. But the CSO said these included 4,825 vacants, farm buildings and ghost-estate homes.

For 2016, some 14,932 units were recorded as being new, but this has been revised downwards to 9,915. For 2015, the figure drops from 12,666 to 7,219.

The official statistics body said the lack of a “single, authoritative data source” had led to the over-counting and said that, in future, all homes granted planning permission should be allocated an Eircode.

When the local authority was informed that construction work would begin on the home, the Eircode of the unit should be recorded it said, adding this code could be tracked when the house was completed, connected to the ESB network, and sold.

This would provide accurate data into the future, it added.

“For the first time, the best available housing data sets have been combined and linked using innovative new data analysis techniques, to provide the most comprehensive and accurate count of new dwelling completions,” CSO senior statistician Kieran Culhane said.

“Some limitations remain, but the CSO has identified these and is working with key stakeholders to further refine and improve the accuracy of future analysis.”

Among the shortcomings include the lack of accurate data on the number of student accommodation bed-spaces completed. There is also no independent source of data on the number of social housing completions.

The CSO also identified an issue with Building Energy Rating (BER) statistics, saying less than half of all domestic ESB connections could be matched to a BER certificate. The problem was more acute in one-off rural dwellings.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy welcomed the revised figures, saying that the upward increase in completions and homes being available meant that the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan was working.

“Essentially, more than 18,000 new homes were made available for use last year,” he said.

“Just over 2,500 were vacant homes brought back into use, roughly 1,000 were unfinished homes from the Fianna Fáil era, and 14,500 were newly built homes occupied for the first time.  And these figures don’t include the 2,000 or so student bed spaces completed in that time too.

“New housing supply is very much moving in the right direction and moving there very quickly.”

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