Ireland will need 28,000 new homes a year to accommodate predicted 5.6m population

Ireland will need 28,000 new homes a year to accommodate predicted 5.6m population

One projection of Ireland's expected population growth in the newly-published ESRI research suggests the country will need 28,000 new homes per year to match demand. File Picture: PA

Ireland's population could grow to 5.6m by 2040, requiring 28,000 new homes per annum over the next 20 years, new research by the ESRI has found.

This year, fewer than 20,000 units will be built, though this is partly due to the impact of the Covid-19 construction shutdown.

A new ESRI report published today estimates future housing demand based on projected population growth over the next two decades.

It suggests that, in a business-as-usual scenario, the population could grow by around 926,000 people between 2016 and 2040, resulting in a total population of over 5.665m people.

This would represent an annual population growth rate of 0.7% across the country based on assumptions about future trends in mortality, fertility, and net migration.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy, the researchers said, is expected to improve from 79.3 years to 83.3 years for men, and from 84.3 to 87.1 years for women by 2040.

Over that time, the fertility rate in the country is projected to fall from the current rate of 1.8 to 1.6 by 2031 and remain constant thereafter, while net immigration over the medium term is expected to increase by around 15,000 people per annum in a business-as-usual scenario.

Looking at alternative scenarios, the ESRI researchers suggest the population could reach 6m if international migration is high and leads to net immigration increases of 30,000 people per annum.

However, where migration levels were lower in the short term — increased by 5,000 people per annum — the population may only grow to 5.5m by 2040.

Regional growth

At a regional level, the Eastern and Midland region is projected to have the fastest population growth rate at 0.8% per annum and could account for the majority of the predicted population growth nationally.

The projections suggest that Dublin will continue to have the highest population share — 28% of the total population — although the region around Dublin could see population growth of around 1% per annum.

Based on a business-as-usual model and taking account of houses that become obsolete, the ESRI researchers further predict that around 28,000 new houses may be needed every year in the medium term to keep pace with population growth.

If international migration levels were high, the housing demand would rise to 33,000 new houses a year, whereas demand would be lower at 26,000 per annum if migration levels were low.

“Regional housing demand, both now and in the future, has significant implications for housing policy in terms of the number of housing units required and the areas they are needed,” ESRI associate research professor Adele Bergin said. 

"Our research shows that around 28,000 new houses a year are necessary to keep up with population growth."

Housing demand, the report suggests, will be higher in Cork City, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown in Dublin, and Meath and Kildare, but will be lower in Mayo and Fingal in Dublin.

In an alternative scenario where population growth is more regionally balanced, the demand for housing is projected to increase in Limerick, County Cork, and County Galway and, to some degree, in Galway City and Waterford.

This scenario is based on more evenly-distributed population growth between the East and Midland region and the rest of the country and higher growth in cities.

ESRI research officer Abián García-Rodríguez said regional economic conditions drove population changes across the country.

“Higher wages, higher employment or lower house prices in a county can encourage internal migration, make a county’s population grow faster, and lead to increased housing demand,” he said. 

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