The latest DEHLG housing survey has revealed that there are 2,846 estates where part of the development remains unfinished or vacant. These estates consist of 78,196 dwellings that are completed and occupied, 23,250 dwellings that are complete and vacant, 9,976 dwellings that are near complete, and a further 9,854 dwellings that are at various stages of construction activity.

The survey has also revealed that there are an additional number of dwellings that have received planning permission for development, but where no initial construction has yet begun.  The total number of planned and approved additional units is approximately 58,025.  Thankfully, these did not proceed to development or the extent of the housing crisis would have been worse.  According to the DEHLG these permissions do not pose any immediate construction or site specific difficulties as they are unlikely to proceed given the present market and access to credit.

The counties with the largest number of undeveloped planning permissions in existing unfinished estates are Fingal (9,502), Cork County (6,516), Meath (3,456), Dublin City (3,263) (Figure 1). It would be interesting to know how many of there are apartments, 3 bed semi-ds, etc.  Given their proximity to Dublin and Cork, it is likely that as estates are finished off and occupied over time, these permissions may be taken up, though developers might push strongly for a redesignation of the permission – say trying to move from high density apartments to lower density 3/4 bed semi-detached.  Such redesignation may well cause issues where estates are near to key infrastructure, such as the luas and rail lines, which were designed to increase density and the numbers within walking distance of stations.

If we normalise the permissions with respect to the number of existing households (units per 1000 households in 2006) we see a different picture emerge with Fingal, Laois, Longord and Cavan having the highest levels of excess permissions (Figure 2). Fingal presently has 2,866 units either completed but vacant, near complete, or underconstruction.  Between 1996-2006 the number of households in Fingal grew by, on average, 3,280 per annum.  If households were still growing at that rate, the unfinished estate units would last 10.5 months.  Of course, there is other vacant stock in the local authority, although it is relatively small, and the growth in households is not increasing at the same rate as 96-06.  Therefore the stock should last at least 12-24 months before present excess planning permissions will start to be taken up.  As for Laois, Longford and Cavan, given the present levels of oversupply it is highly unlikely that such permissions will be taken up any time soon.

Figure 1: Uncommenced Units

Figure 2: Uncommenced Units per 1000 households