Statement by Minister Coveney on the publication of Housing in Ireland by the Central Statistics Office

Published on Friday, 21 Apr 2017
Rebuilding Ireland logo

I welcome this week’s publication of Census 2016 Housing in Ireland data by the CSO.   This comprehensive information source is a very useful resource in informing housing and planning policy in a variety of ways, including in the context of household formation patterns generally and responding to specific needs such as an ageing population. The CSO published a further 78 detailed breakdowns of the Census results today and it will take time to digest and uncover the many different insights that can be extracted from this huge volume of additional data.

The new data added this year in respect of vacant units is particularly welcome and useful.  We now have a reason for vacancy in relation to 31% of the total vacant housing stock (excluding holiday homes).  This information, whilst not totally comprehensive, will nonetheless prove very valuable in determining the best courses of action to finalise the work on bringing vacant homes back into use as envisaged under the Pillar 5 of our Rebuilding Ireland Strategy.

Furthermore, the analysis of the age at which home ownership begins to dominate, backed up by very detailed analysis of the renting cohort and increasing household size, tells us that there remains a strong desire to own a home in Ireland, but that various issues may have been hindering or slowing down this important life event for many households. Alongside our efforts to make mortgages more achievable for first time buyers, a strong supply side response is undoubtedly critical in reversing these trends, and my Department through initiatives such as the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund and Repair and Leasing will assist with unblocking and delivering early and vital supply potential.

Today, attention has also been drawn to the fact that the stock of Housing increased by just 8,800 in the five years between the two Census waves.  The housing stock as measured by the Central Statistics Office is defined as the total number of permanent residential dwellings that were available for occupancy at the time of Census enumeration. Changes in the level of the housing stock are therefore a function of the number of units being added to as well as taken away from the housing stock, and the net change to the housing stock is not a measurement of the number of units built between two Census waves. The total number of units declared by householders as being constructed since 2011 amounted to 33,436 homes.  However 114,112 Census responses did not include any answer to this question, and there was no response at all in relation to those units which were classified as vacant (although 2,180 of the 57,246 units  where a reason for vacancy was recorded were noted as being new units for sale).

Another important statistic is the total number of permanent dwellings actually occupied on Census night. The total number of private households enumerated between Census 2011 and Census 2016 grew by 48,081 to just over 1.7m. This figure is larger than the numbers constructed since 2011 as it also includes homes which are now occupied but which were vacant back in 2011. Many properties have rotated between being occupied and vacant between the two Census waves. Over 105,000 of the units marked as vacant in 2011 are now defined as occupied, whilst about 82,437 units have moved from occupied in 2011 to vacant in 2016. A deeper analysis of these transitions is required and would be very useful in forming good policy.

Some commentators have used the publication of the Census figures to draw conclusions around discrepancies in new house completion statistics. Completions as measured by ESB connections, which has been the standard means since the 1970’s for calculating new houses being connected to the electricity grid in advance of occupation between January 2011 and April 2016 totalled 55,240 homes.  We will carefully analyse the new Census datasets as a critical step towards reconciling the various data sources.  The Department continues to interact with the CSO and ESB Networks in terms of developing further the existing datasets supplied to my Department in order to better inform understanding of the changes in the scale and profile of the Irish housing stock between Census waves, and to track completion trends and totals.