On Census night April 2011 there were 1,994,845 housing units in the state (up 12.72% from 2006, when there were 1,769,613).  1,649,408 of these units were occupied by the usual resident.  Of the remainder, 289,451 were vacant, 45,283 were absent on the night of the census but usually occupied, and 10,703 were occupied by guests.  Of the vacant stock, 59,395 were classed as holiday homes.

The overall vacancy rate, including holiday homes, is 14.5%.  If holiday homes are excluded, the vacancy rate drops to 11.53%.

Oversupply and vacancy

In a properly functioning housing market there are always some houses vacant. This is known as base vacancy.  The Department of Environment expect a generous six percent of properties to be vacant at any one time.  Oversupply is total vacant stock (289,451) minus holiday homes (59,395) minus base vacancy (119,691).  In April 2011, oversupply for the state was 110,365 units, plus the 17,872 units under-construction as reported by the Unfinished Housing Survey undertaken by the Department of Environment (and not counted in the Census).

Vacancy and oversupply vary geographically, both within and between counties (see Figures 1, 2 and 3 below).

The vacancy rate excluding holiday homes is in excess of 15% in 9 local authorities – Leitrim (22.26%), Longford (19.96%), Roscommon (19.85%), Cavan (18.62%), Mayo (17.90%) Sligo (16.82%), Donegal (15.92%), Kerry (15.41%), Galway County (15.21%).  Five of these counties (Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Cavan and Sligo) were part of the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme that encouraged tax-incentive led development.

Only one local authority has a vacancy level excluding holiday homes below the base rate of 6% – South Dublin (5.37%).  Five others have rates below 10% – Fingal (6.71%), Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (7.56%), Kildare (7.77%), Wicklow (7.89%), Meath (8.43%).  These locations generally managed to keep supply and demand roughly in line with each other and only experience marginal oversupply.

All the remaining local authorities have vacancy rates excluding holiday homes of between 10-15% and have relatively significant issues of oversupply.

What is clear from the Census data is that there is a wide variation across the country with respect to levels of vacancy and oversupply.  Unfortunately, the areas of high vacancy/oversupply coincide with the areas of low or negative population growth, which would suggest that they will suffer ongoing issues of oversupply for many years.  Areas where there is low vacancy will start to correct in the coming few years as long as demand and supply are allowed to harmonise.  That is, we do not start to build until all excess housing has been taken up by purchasers.  The lack of consumer confidence and access to credit, coupled with present weak demographic demand, will dampen this process.

I’ll try and take a look at the Small Area data tomorrow (the map below is at small area level).

Figure 1: % vacant stock excluding holiday homes by local authority

Figure 2: Oversupply per local authority (using a 6% base vacancy rate)

Vacancy rate at Small Area level, Census 2011

To download the Census 2011 data visit the CSO website here

To view interactive graphs/maps of Census 2011: visit http://www.airo.ie/mapping-module/census

Rob Kitchin

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