Every new and second-hand house bought by a household incurs stamp duty and as such it tells an interesting story about our current housing situation and recent trends.
At the big picture level, what an analysis of stamp duty payments tells us is that even though overall housing output has more than doubled since 2017 to 29,851 houses in 2022, the proportion of new housing available for sale each year has declined by over 43pc.
Twenty years ago, about two-thirds of all new housing built became available for sale. In 2017, that had dropped to half and last year it was about 28pc.
Now you know why your kids can’t find a nice new home to buy like you once did. The other seven in 10 new houses are one-off houses, social housing, and apartments built specifically for rent. None of these categories are ever available for sale as new housing.
The biggest jump in housing output in the last five years has been in apartments for social or private rent. In 2022, we built more housing for rent (9,166) than we did houses for sale (8,590).
This is a sea change in our housing output and incredibly important, and worrying, given houses comprise about two-thirds of our wealth per person.
Apartment output is up 414pc in the last five years. It is interesting to see where this activity is up, and down. Apartment completions are up over 400pc in Cork city and 65pc in Galway.
Scheme housing — what the CSO calls housing estates — has nearly doubled nationally since 2017, up more than 250pc in Cork city and up more than 200pc in Galway city since 2017. Most of these become available for sale. In Dublin city, however, scheme housing is down 73pc.
First-time buyers, often at the coalface of housing challenges, are 30pc more active in the market now than in 2017. First-time buyer activity for new homes is down over 70pc in Dublin city since 2017, reflecting the lack of new housing available to buy.
It is down 20pc in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, and up 273pc in Kildare and 202pc in the mid-east region, including Louth. First-time buyers are increasingly finding their homes in the commuter belt.
The median price paid for a new home by a first-time buyer in Dublin in 2017 was €340,000. Last year it was €436,000, a 28pc increase.
In Kildare, prices paid by first-time buyers for new homes have gone up 25pc in five years. Stamp duty activity also tells us first-time buyers are increasingly buying second-hand homes, which is helping drive those prices up as well.
Indeed, house prices are up 41pc nationally since 2017, despite the supply of new homes more than doubling in the same period.
Former owner occupiers are what the CSO calls “movers”. This type of buyer is interesting as they tend not to have the same financial constraints as first-time buyers. They often have equity built up in their existing house and so have to borrow much less when they move.
Their activity in the market is up nearly 16pc since 2017, but this increase is mostly in the purchase of second-hand homes, not new housing.
This suggests new housing is simply not there to buy, or they are moving to more affordable locations, which is less likely given they are often established in a community already.
There has been much talk about landlords “fleeing the market” in recent months. What has gone unnoticed is that a lot of landlord departures are “natural attrition”.
In other words, given the average small landlord is approaching 60 years of age, they are cashing in their chips, selling up and exiting the market.
New landlords, however, are not exactly flocking in to replace them. Analysis of the stamp duty activity of small landlords shows just 6,174 purchases of new and existing houses by this cohort last year.
This is down 28pc since 2017. At the same time, “non-household entities” (large landlord companies) bought nearly 16,000 houses last year.
What does this analysis tell us?
Firstly, the answer to our multiple housing issues is evidently not as simplistic as supply. It is always frustrating to hear politicians and others trot out the line that the answer to Ireland’s housing crisis is simply more housing. It is not. It is the right type of housing, of the right tenure, at the right price.
There seems to be no strategic approach. Success is still measured by the number of houses built in a year, and not by the type, price, tenure, quality or sustainability of what is built. The Taoiseach himself said he doesn’t care what gets built, as somebody will live in it.
I hate to break it to the Taoiseach, but housing is our wealth, and financial and emotional security, so it is very important what gets built and whether it is for rent or sale. A “home-owning democracy” is an increasingly hollow phrase if you don’t provide the homes for people to buy.
Current policy in housing is acting against policies in other areas. Patterns of housing activity show a considerable preference — or necessity — for commuter belt living outside cities as that is where ownership is possible.
This is not best practice for sustainable development, leading to car-borne transport even for small trips, low density housing and congestion on our roads.
We will struggle to meet any emissions targets if people are forced to drive, as they will be for various reasons.
Finally, none of the statistics examined suggest things are to get better soon. Despite being better educated, the generation aged between 30 and 40 are worse off than their parents for the first time ever, mostly due to plummeting home ownership.
The significant increase in social house building in recent years is very welcome, but a similar increase in the amount of housing for sale is seriously needed.
Is there anything to be said for another Land League? Just a small one.
Dr Lorcan Sirr is a senior lecturer in housing at Technological University Dublin