One-in-25 house vacancy rate branded a 'slap in the face' to those looking for a home

One-in-25 house vacancy rate branded a 'slap in the face' to those looking for a home

While nearly 2.5% of homes in Dublin were vacant, that rises to more than 5% in the rest of the country, the CSO said. File picture: Larry Cummins

Around one in 25 homes in the country are vacant, new data suggests - which is a "slap in the face to those tens of thousands in dire need of housing" according to one TD.

The data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows the vacancy rate for dwellings was 4.3% in 2021. It was calculated based on metered electricity consumption.

While nearly 2.5% of homes in Dublin were vacant, that rises to more than 5% in the rest of the country, the CSO said. In the five years to the end of 2021, the vacancy rate nationally dropped by 0.6%, the data shows. However in Dublin, it rose from 1.9% to 2.3% in the same period.

The CSO estimated after last year's census that the country had nearly 167,000 vacant houses and apartments.

Of those, nearly 48,500 homes vacant in 2016 were still the same in 2022 while 23,500 were vacant in 2011, 2016 and 2022. There were also 105,000 that were vacant in 2016 but occupied in 2022, and 86,000 dwellings occupied in 2016 but vacant in 2022, it said after the April census.

The latest data based on metered electricity consumption shows that rural areas are hit more than twice as hard by vacancy as urban, with a 7.5%% rate compared to just 2.9%. 

Vacancy exists in all types of homes, the data shows, with 3.7% of apartments, 3.2% of detached houses, 2.9% of terraced houses, and 1.8% of semi-detached idle. 

Connaught is the vacancy blackspot of Ireland, with over 10.5% in Leitrim, 9.5% in Roscommon, and 8.7% in Mayo. Homes in Leixlip in Kildare and Tallaght have the lowest rate in the country at just 0.7%. 

In Cork city the percentage ranged from as low as 1.8% in the south west to 7.5% in the city centre. In Cork county there was a wide variation. For example, in Mallow the percentage was 4.9% whereas in Bantry it was 8.5%.

CSO statistician Justin Anderson, said the data shows homes assumed to be vacant through very low levels of electricity consumption over four consecutive quarters or more.

Vacant home tax

Social Democrat spokesperson on housing, Cian O'Callaghan, said the figures show the "urgent need for a strong and effective" tax on vacant homes.

"The fact that an estimated 4.3% of homes in Ireland are vacant is a slap in the face to the tens of thousands of people who are in dire need of housing. Shamefully, there are several electoral divisions with a vacancy rate of well over 20%.

“Particularly concerning is that in Dublin, where the need for housing is most acute, the vacancy rate has actually grown since 2016. This would be unacceptable at any time. However, in the midst of a housing crisis, it is utterly unforgivable," he said.

Mr O'Callaghan claimed the Government’s new vacant homes tax is "far too weak" to put off speculators sitting on empty homes. 

"At just 0.3% of the value of the property, this captures only a small fraction of rising house prices. There are now 3,442 children living in emergency homeless accommodation – a 40% rise in just one year. The Government needs to start treating this crisis with the urgency it deserves by introducing a punitive vacant homes tax," he said.

Long-time vacancy and dereliction campaigner Jude Sherry said that the 4.3% was likely to be higher because the CSO could only calculate within certain parameters.

"Because the data is for homes connected to electricity, it is not clear how many disconnected homes there are - we just don't know how many homes are not being counted. The 4.3% is likely to be conservative. 

"Drilling down into the data, actual city centre vacancy is really high. Low vacancy in suburbs may obscure the urban figures, but the likes of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford are really suffering," she said.

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