For the first time, the housing stock and vacancy data from the Census has been released at the new Small Area (SA) level.  This new statistical geography, developed by the National Centre for Geocomputation at NUI Maynooth for Ordnance Survey Ireland, consists of 18,488 areas, typically consisting of 80-130 households.

Over half the SAs (51.57%) in the country have more than 10% vacancy.  15.10% of SAs (some 2791 areas, or 1 in 6 areas in the state) have vacancy rates in excess of 25%.  420 areas (2.27%) have vacancy rates in excess of 50%.   See our AIRO tableau graph of Small Area vacancy per county.

The issue of vacancy is particularly acute in Upper Shannon area.  For example, in Leitrim 103 of its 173 SAs (59.5%) have vacancy levels in excess of 25 percent (Figure 1, and this graph).  Only 4 areas have a vacancy level below 10%.  The overall vacancy rate for the county is 30.48% (5,526 houses are vacant in a stock of 18,128).  The vacancy rate adjusted for the 1,490 holiday homes is 22.6%.  In other words, the county has a large vacant stock that cannot be accounted for by holiday homes even though the county’s population grew by 9.84%  between 06-11.

Figure 1: Housing vacancy by Small Area in Leitrim, Census 2011

Other local authorities where more than 1 in 5 SAs have vacancy rates in excess of 25% include Donegal, Mayo, Kerry, Roscommon, Sligo, Longford, Cavan, Clare, Wexford and Galway County (see Figure 2).  All counties with high rates of vacancy even when holiday homes are stripped out (see our post yesterday).  Clearly in these counties housing supply was well outstripping demand, principally driven by tax incentive led development.   See our AIRO tableau interactive graph on occupancy, vacancy, and oversupply by county.

In contrast, South Dublin, Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown have more than 80% of their SAs with less than 10% vacancy.  That is not to say that there is little vacancy in the cities.  Figure 2 shows the vacancy levels for the Dublin city centre (dark orange and red is above 25% vacancy).  Dublin City local authority has 7,995 vacant houses and 16,321 vacant apartments, with an oversupply of 9,815 given a 6% base vacancy rate (how many units we would normally expect to be vacant).  787 Small Areas in Dublin City (out of 2202) have vacancy levels over 10%, 115 of which have vacancy levels over 25%.

Given the strong household growth between 2006 and 2011 we might expect these excess units in Dublin city centre to be taken up in a relatively short period of time, however there are a number of reasons as to why this might not happen as quickly as we might anticipate.  Firstly, apartments make up a very large proportion of the stock.  What few buyers there are at the minute seem much more interested in family homes than apartments, as reflected in the drop in apartment prices (down over 60%).  Second, other external factors are impinging on the housing market such as a lack of access to credit and weak demographic demand (although pop growth was strong between 06-11, it is presently weak increasing at 11-13K a year).

Figure 2: Percentage of SAs in a county25% vacancy

Figure 3: Housing vacancy in Dublin City, Census 2011

The figure shows the distribution of vacant stock by SA across the country.  The interactive map can be found on the AIRO website

Figure 4: Vacancy per Small Area in Census 2011

As we detailed yesterday, oversupply is 110,365 (above a base vacancy rate of 6%).  For any area shaded in red in the map above, oversupply is an acute issue and is likely to depress the housing market for sometime.  In locales in and around the cities we would expect demand to rise first and to take up the excess, but this will be slow until the housing market stabilises, banks start lending again, and the general economy starts to recover.  In rural areas, where demographic growth is presently weak, oversupply is likely to remain a problem for quite some time.  The solution in both cases is to harmonise supply and demand.  That means not building any new housing until existing supply has been taken up and consumers are back to the point of competing with each other for property.

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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