Number of new housing starts up sharply to almost 31,000

Official figures show annual rate of housebuilding is close to Government targets

There was a sharp recovery in housebuilding activity last year as developers notified State officials of the start in construction of close to 31,000 homes, a rise of 42 per cent over 2020, according to Government figures.

The Department of Housing has released details the latest monthly batch of commencement notices, formal notices given by builders to local authorities of the number of units being built that are sent two-to-four weeks before construction begins.

The numbers for December show notices for 1,736 new homes, up 12 per cent on the same month in 2020. Overall for 2021, the number of housing starts notified to the State rose to 30,724, compared to 21,686 the previous year. However, 2020’s figures were dampened by anti-virus lockdowns of the construction sector when numbers slipped by 5,000. The 2021 total for housing starts was still more than 17 per cent ahead of 2019, however.

The numbers show that housebuilding activity is now approaching the Government’s target of close to 35,000 new houses which it believes are needed annually to meet demand and solve the housing crisis. Industry estimates, however, suggest that many more homes than that may need to be built in coming decades.

Extensive building

A report last August by economist Ronan Lyons and commissioned by Irish Institutional Property, which includes major property companies, estimated that the State would need close to 50,000 new homes annually for the next three decades to meet demand.

The scaling up of housebuilding activity in recent years is underlined by the fact that the total for 2021 was 3.5 times the total for 2015. The latest figures show that almost 11,000 of last year’s new housing starts, or 35 per cent of the total, were in the four Dublin local authority areas.

The capital’s hinterland also recorded heavy activity, with more than 1,500 in Wicklow, 2,005 in Meath and 3,165 in Kildare.

About 3,100 new housing starts were notified for Cork city and county, the next biggest bloc.

At the other end of the scale, by far the smallest amount of fresh housing starts in the country was recorded in Leitrim, where just 49 new homes were notified to authorities for all of 2021.