In its research on inter-jurisdictional and cross-border planning, the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) has shown how one of the first entry points to developing cooperation is providing information and shared evidence on common issues such as housing, trade, environment, transport and services. The process of collection, joint analysis, reports and forums can help to build an agenda for action around common interests and challenges. Today, one of the major challenges within the Irish economy and society (North and South) relates to issues within the housing market. ICLRD and the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO), see here for previous post on AIRO, have developed an interactive mapping and querying tool for housing market indicators combining data from both Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. By facilitating access to comparable statistics, the Island of Ireland Housing Monitoring Tool can be a key step towards addressing common difficulties in the housing sector. This on-line housing atlas is one of three spatial data indicators projects undertaken by AIRO under ICLRD’s Cross-border Spatial Planning and Training Network (CroSPlaN).


During the Celtic Tiger ‘boom’ the Republic of Ireland experienced a phenomenal growth in property construction and house prices. The subsequent ‘bust’ has lead to a radical transformation within the housing market with tumbling house prices, widespread negative equity, almost a total collapse of the construction industry, a legacy of excessive residential zoning and the introduction of the new phenomenon of ‘ghost estates’ to every county in the Republic (“A Haunted Landscape: Housing and Ghost Estates in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.” Kitchin et al., 2010).

In Northern Ireland a parallel picture has emerged. Economic buoyancy gave rise to a more dynamic housing market than in previous decades, but without the same dramatic increases in prices as experienced in the Republic of Ireland. The combination of a less dynamic employment base than in the Republic of Ireland, higher rates of long-term unemployment and lower average wages results in a different but equally complex housing market, and has knock-on effects for the planning authorities involved in the provision of housing, in particular the Planning Service and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Although house prices never rose to the same extent as those in the Republic of Ireland, the economic downturn continues to have a negative impact on affordability and first-time buyer access (NIHE, 2009).

The impact of these new housing market challenges on cross-border planning was explored in detail during the second session of the ICLRD Sixth Annual Conference in January 2011. Speaker presentations and audio files are available for download here.

Island of Ireland Indicators

As Governments and Planning Departments continue to develop strategies for the recovery and future development of Ireland, there is an urgent requirement to establish a baseline of accurate indicators for key sectors such as economy, environment, transport, the social sector and housing amongst others. A variety of datasets and indicators are currently readily available and partially serve the needs of both jurisdictions on an individual basis. However, there is still a pressing need to establish a series of ‘all-island’ indicators to inform and steer the growth of the ‘all-island’ economy.

In an attempt to address this challenge, ICLRD is developing a series of such indicators and currently focussing on the development of the first ‘all-island’ housing indicators set to feed into what will become known as the ‘All-Island Housing Monitoring Tool’. The key focus of these indicators, which it is hoped will also become part of an annual housing report, will be aimed at providing an accurate and comparable evidence base that will be used for collaborative planning for homes and people and for addressing new challenges and agendas within the housing sector.

The current ‘all-island’ indicator set contains data on a variety of themes that describe the characteristics of the housing sector on the island. Indicators are available at the Local Authority ‘District’ level (26) in Northern Ireland and at the Local Authority ‘County/City’ level (34) in the Republic of Ireland. Data for the indicators have been sourced from a number of different organisations in both jurisdictions. The primary source of housing information in Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Much of this data is available in annual reports and briefing papers and also available through the Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service (NINIS) website. In the Republic of Ireland, housing data are generally available through two inter-linked organisations: the Housing Department within the Department for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG) and the Central Statistics Office (CSO). To date, the housing indicators project has developed the following comparable ‘all-island’ themes:

Housing Stock 1991 to 2009

  • Total Housing Stock (1991, 1996, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
  • % Housing Stock Change (1991 to 2009)
  • Total Stock per 1000 population (2002, 2006)

Housing Completions

  • Total Housing Completions (post 2004)
  • % Change in Total Completions (post 2004)
  • Total Completions per 1000 population (post 2004)

Housing Vacancy

  • Vacant Dwellings 1991 to 2006 (Ex. Holiday Homes)
  • Vacancy Rate 1991 to 2006 (Ex. Holiday Homes)
  • Vacancy Rate per 1000 population

Housing Tenure

  • Total Owner Occupied
  • % Owner Occupied
  • Total Social Housing
  • Total Rented Privately
  • % Rented Privately

Housing Type

  • Total Conventional Housing
  • % Conventional Housing
  • Total Flats and Apartments
  • % Flats and Apartments

Online Mapping Tool

In order to make the housing indicators as interactive and accessible as possible the AIRO project team developed an on-line mapping tool to display the results. Users of this tool can now view the housing themes, explore patterns, monitor key indicators, present trends and importantly support decision making. Users can also query data and create user defined mapped outputs.

The ‘All-Island Housing Monitoring Tool’ is currently available (beta version) for use on the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) website. Users of the site must initially register to gain access to the mapping tools. The site is intended to inform planning, policy and research and therefore registration is open only to members of public bodies.

This housing atlas is one of three spatial data indicators projects undertaken by AIRO under ICLRD’s Cross-border Spatial Planning and Training Network (CroSPlaN). The two other projects, both on-going, include: the establishment of an all-island index of deprivation and an index of Accessibility. It is funded under INTERREG IVA, administered by the Special EU Programmes Body, and is part of a larger initiative managed by the Centre for Cross Border Studies–the Ireland Northern Ireland Cross-Border Cooperation Observatory (‘INICCO’). This three-year programme promotes the development of a cross-border planning network by enhancing and promoting the opportunities that exist for collaboration and addressing identified areas of need.

See MappingModules/Housing/All Island Housing Monitoring Tool

Justin Gleeson & ICLRD