Housebuilding in Ireland still among the lowest in Europe

Despite housing crisis and uptick in new builds output needs to treble to meet demand

Despite the housing crisis, housebuilding in Ireland remains amongst the lowest in the EU on a per capita basis. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

Despite the housing crisis, housebuilding in Ireland remains amongst the lowest in the EU on a per capita basis. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Despite rapid growth in the number of new homes been built, housebuilding in Ireland remains amongst the lowest in the EU on a per capita basis. The statement comes as confusion reigns as to the actual number of new builds being completed across the country.

According to a new report from Goodbody Stockbrokers, based on the number of new BER certificates being issued, 754 homes were completed in Ireland in March 2018, up by 43 per cent on the year. A similar rate of growth (45% ) was recorded in the first quarter of the year, when some 2367 units were completed, “confirming the strong growth momentum in the new housebuilding sector in Ireland” economist Dermot O’Leary said.

The latest rapid growth means that for the first time in the Goodbody series, BER certificates issued over the past twelve months have exceeded 10,000 units .

However, Mr O’Leary is clear that this is still not enough.

“More than a trebling of output is still required from here to catch up with estimated annual demand,” he said, adding that Ireland’s housing supply per capita is the fourth lowest in the European Union.

While self-builds are not captured by the data, allowing for an additional 1,500 such units brings overall supply up to about 11,500 a year, which comes to 2.4 house completions per thousand of the population.

“This leaves housing output in Ireland at the fourth lowest of the 19 EU countries in the Euroconstruct data,” Mr O’Leary said, with only Portugal (1.0), Italy (1.4) and Spain (1.5) having lower levels of output than us.

“The European average on the other hand, is estimated at 3.4 per 1000. Given rapid population growth and a record low level of stock for sale, Ireland needs completions per capita to be well ahead of EU averages,” Mr O’Leary said.

However, Goodbody’s figures were contested on Monday. Hubert Fitzpatrick, director of Development Housing and Planning Service with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) told Rte’s Morning Ireland that there are “deficiencies” in using BER certificates as a measure of new builds.

“There needs to be a better form of measurement of new builds,” he said, noting that the number of new self-builds could actually be as high as 7,500. The CIF is forecasting 23,000 completions in 2018.

Goodbody’s figures also diverge from official figures, which point to a much higher volume of new builds. For example, the Department of Housing’s official measure, which relies on electricity connections, showed new builds of some 19,271 for 2017 - compared with a figure of 9,441 based on BER certificates. Official figures for the first quarter of 2018 are not yet available.

Geographical spread

Again there is a concentration of new supply in the greater Dublin area, accounting for 46 per cent of the total, although the the fastest growth was in Dublin’s commuter counties, up by 80 per cent year on year. The greater Dublin area (GDA) accounted for 72 per cent of the units completed in the first quarter.

However, when looked at on a per capita basis, Meath emerges as having the greatest level of completions (5.2 per 1000), followed by Kildare (4.1), Dublin (3.9) and Wicklow (2.8), all in the GDA. Looking outside this region, supply slumps even further, with 16 counties completing between 0-1 units per thousand.

When it comes to the type of property, semi-detached houses remain the most popular, accounting for 41 per cent of all builds in the first quarter, followed by detached, at 21 per cent. Apartments accounted for 15 per cent of new units but continue to be “almost exclusively a Dublin phenomenon” Goodbody noted.