One-in-five houses are empty, says report

AS many as one-in-five houses in Ireland could be empty, almost three times the European average, new research suggests.

A report commissioned by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has detailed the wide disparities between four recent reports on the level of vacant houses in the country.

These reports show that of the roughly 1.9 million houses in the state, the number of empty houses may be anything from 301,682 to 352,414 — a 17% divergence as to what the actual figure may be.

The number of holiday homes also varies from report to report by about 47%, with estimates ranging from 49,789 to 73,476.

If you take the upper end of these figures, it suggests more than 18% of the state’s houses are empty compared with 7.3% in Europe and 3.4% in Britain, a figure close to holiday home ownership levels in Ireland.

Speaking at the publication of the report, director of the RIAI John Graby said more precise numbers on the level of empty houses was vital and that unemployed architects, surveyor engineers and construction industry professionals could compile the list while claiming job seekers allowance.

“Local authorities should be mandated by the Department of Environment to undertake an independent, nationwide, impartial, physical count of the Irish housing stock using their planning officers and other construction industry professionals to give a definitive count of how many houses lie idle in the country. The uncertainty and lack of authoritative data on the country’s housing stock needs to be resolved to get a proper planning process going,” he said.

Mr Graby said while previous research in the area was to be welcomed, research by NUI Maynooth, UCD and DKM Economic Consultants into the level of empty houses in the country raised more questions than answers.

“The various reports show that there is a clear lack of unanimity on the size of the national housing stock and the overhang of vacant property in the state. Nobody knows exactly how many houses in Ireland are occupied or empty, what kinds of houses they are, where exactly they are, what state they are in, how many derelict or even how many holiday homes there are. If we don’t know what we have we won’t know what we need,” he said.

Mr Graby called on each local authority to undertake a door to door count of every house in the country and record its age, location and habitable status.

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