Home ownership rises across State as numers renting falls

CSO data shows ‘remarkable shift’ in way we work and live, economist says

The number of homeowners rose across the country in 2020 as the impact of the pandemic saw more people eschew the vagaries of the rental market for the security – and potential space – of their own home.

The increase was sharpest in Dublin, with the numbers owning a property increasing by 8 per cent, up from 848,700 at the end of 2019 to 916,400 at the end of 2020, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). At the same time, overall occupied dwellings in the capital rose by just 1 per cent.

Outside Dublin, more people also owned their own home, with the number of owner-occupiers up by 4.4 per cent to 2.7 million as of the end of 2020.

The figures are collected by the CSO as part of its Labour Force Survey, and come with a caveat. As the way the national statistics office collects its information has changed due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it notes that there may be an understatement in the number of people in the private rental market.


Nonetheless, the trend towards home ownership is clear, with 65 per cent of capital dwellers owning their own home as of December 2020, compared with 60 per cent as of end 2019, and 63 per cent in 2012.

Outside Dublin, the proportion of people owning their own home rose to 75.7 per cent, with a national figure of 72.5 per cent, up from 70 per cent in 2019 and 71 per cent in 2012.

‘Remarkable shift’

Dermot O’Leary, chief economist with Goodbody Stockbrokers, says the data shows how the pandemic has triggered “a remarkable shift in the way we work and the way we live”, by catalysing people into shifting out of renting and into buying their own home.

Lorcan Sirr, a senior lecturer in housing at Technological University Dublin, agrees that the pandemic has caused a shift.

“The pandemic brought home why people needed more space, both mentally and physically. People in rental accommodation saw how vulnerable they were,” he says, adding that “for people who nearly had a deposit, the pandemic gave them the opportunity to put it together much quicker”.

The figures also point to a reduction in the number of people renting – in the capital and across Ireland. While the CSO said this decline may be overstated, the figures showed that almost 87,000 people left the rental market in Dublin in 2020.

For Sirr, the decline in numbers in the rental market is also likely to be pandemic-related, down to Irish people moving back to their family home, or international workers returning to their country of origin.

Financial reasons may also be at play here as, at the same time, the numbers renting from a local authority in Dublin increased by almost 10,000, or by 6.1 per cent, to 167,700 as of end 2020.

Whether the shift towards owning a home becomes a more permanent feature remains to be seen, however.

“We’re still in the pandemic so we won’t know until all of this is over whether it’s longer lasting or not,” says O’Leary.

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan is a writer specialising in personal finance and is the Home & Design Editor of The Irish Times