Prompted by a colleague, I’ve been browsing the CSO Census report, The Roof over our Heads.  It is full of information from the Census 2011 on households and housing in Ireland.  I’ll probably blog about some of the other material at some point, but I thought it might be useful to point to some of their data on housing vacancy, a familiar topic on this blog.

In the report, the CSO produce an interesting map of all vacant residential address points in the country classified as vacant houses, vacant apartments and holiday homes.  There is little chance of identifying individual properties from this map as it is a scale of 1: 1 million, but by plotting the individual units as opposed to shading in areas we can get a sense of the scale of the issue (which in numeric terms is: 168,427 vacant houses; 61,629 vacant apartments; 59,395 holiday homes; out of total stock of 1,994,845 residential units).

Map of vacant properties in Ireland

Map of vacant properties in Ireland

There is clearly a patterns to holiday homes, concentrating on the coast, as well as the upper and lower Shannon.  Vacant apartments are mainly confined to large urban areas.  And whilst, there is much media talk at present concerning a shortage of family homes in Dublin, the data reveal there is no shortage of apartments.  In fact, there are 16,321 empty apartments in Dublin City, let alone the other Dublin local authorities.  As for vacant houses, they are everywhere.  The few blank spots are mountains or remote areas.

The CSO report also provide some data on towns with the highest levels of vacancy, both including and excluding holiday homes.  The table below lists the seven towns with the highest levels of vacancy excluding holiday homes.  In the case of Tulsk and Ballaghaderreen, two places I have some familiarity with, there is a strong correlation with the presence of unfinished estates.  However, as we have discussed elsewhere, unfinished estates are just one element of vacancy given that there are only 16,881 vacant properties on such estates, meaning there is a high degree of background vacancy in many locations beyond unfinished estates (see our AIRO VacantIreland interactive mapping tool that let’s you examine vacancy at Small Area level and individual unfinished estates).

most vacant towns

Rob Kitchin

To follow on from yesterday’s post concerning the initial Census 2011 results with respect to housing vacancy.  In that post we included a table of data detailing housing unit numbers, vacancy levels and change between 2006-2011 by local authority.  In the Census 2011 preliminary report the CSO has provide two graphs (vacancy at county level, Figure 1 – see below, and increase in housing stock, Figure 3) and a maps of housing vacancy at ED level (Figure 2).  What these figures show is a marked geography to vacancy, with the five Upper Shannon Renewal Scheme counties of Cavan, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Sligo, along with Kerry, Mayo, Donegal, Clare and Wexford, showing significant levels of vacancy (all over 20%). All of these counties had increases their vacancy rates of over 10%, with Donegal, Cavan, Roscommon, Leitrim, Kerry and Clare having increases of over 20%.

Holiday homes are a significant contributory factor to vacancy in for four of these counties.   We don’t have the 2011 figures yet, but in 2006 holiday homes as a percentage of all vacancy was 52% in Wexford,  43.5% in Donegal, 37% in Clare and 36.5% in Kerry (as evidenced by the high rates of vacancy along their coastal fringes – Figure 2).  So roughly between a third and a half of vacancy in these counties is accounted for by holiday homes.  In the other six counties, however, in 2006, holiday homes accounted for less than a third of all vacant houses (Cavan 12.9%, Leitrim 26.7%, Longford 7.4%, Roscommon 15.9%, Sligo 23.1% and Mayo 29.6%).  This pattern is unlikely to have altered much in the last five years.  In other words, other factors are at play in all ten counties.

Seven of the ten counties  increased their housing stock by over 15% between 2006-2011, with the except of Kerry, Mayo and Clare that increased by over 12% (Figure 3).  Only in Cavan (13.9%), Wexford (10.3%) and Longford (13.3%) did population increase exceed 10%.  In other words, house building was exceeding population growth in all these counties.  As Figure 4 shows, many EDs in these counties had decreases in population between 2006 and 2011 and there is a strong match to those EDs with very high levels of vacancy (Figure 2).  These are also the EDs with low population densities (Figure 5).  Issues such as migration and natural fluctuations (ratio of births to deaths) also contribute.  As Figure 6 shows, several of these counties have low rates of natural increase.

Given the decrease in population in some parts of these counties, and the low rates of growth elsewhere in them, the data suggest that there is a significant oversupply of housing stock in them that may take many years to fill given present demographics.  We’ll be able to work out the exact levels of oversupply per county and likely length to fill once the full census results are out next year and we have a bit more information.

There has been some confusion across discussion boards since the Census results were released as to what constitutes a vacant house, and whether these figures include houses that were simply vacant on the night of the census and also houses in unfinished estates.  The CSO state the following: “‘In identifying vacant dwellings, enumerators were instructed to look for signs that the dwelling was not  occupied e.g. no furniture, no cars outside, junk mail accumulating, overgrown garden etc., and to find out from neighbours whether it was vacant or not. It was not sufficient to classify a dwelling as vacant after one or two visits. Similar precautions were also taken before classifying holiday homes.  Dwellings under construction and derelict properties are not included in the count of vacant dwellings. In order to be classified as under construction, the dwelling had to be unfit for habitation because the roof, doors, windows or walls had not yet been built or installed.”

In other words, enumerators visited homes several times and talked to neighbours to see if the house was a primary residence of occupation.  If the house was temporarily vacant on census night it was recorded as such and these figures are not included in the vacancy rate (as per previous censuses).  Houses in unfinished estates were included unless they were at a stage of construction that precluded habitation.  In other words, the 10,000 under-construction houses in the DECLG unfinished estates survey, and one assumes the vast majority of the 10,000 near-finished houses, will not have been included.


Figure 1: Vacant dwellings as a percentage of total housing stock by county, 2011

Figure 2: Percentage of dwellings vacant in each Electoral Division, 2011


Figure 3: Percentage increase in the number of dwellings by county, 2006- 2011


Figure 4: Percentage change in the population of Electoral Divisions, 2006 - 2011

Figure 5: Population density per square kilometer of Electoral Divisions, 2011

Figure 6: Natural increase by County, 2006-2011

Rob Kitchin