Lack of activity in Dublin social housing market ‘jaw-dropping’, says expert

Only 200 homes added to social housing stock across four Dublin councils annually between 2017 and 2021

Only 200 homes were added to social housing stock across the four councils in Dublin each year between 2017 and 2021, according to an analysis of official data by a leading housing policy expert.

The picture is particularly bleak in the Dublin City Council area which actually saw its social housing stock decline by an average of 54 houses each year over the same five-year period, once the number of homes taken out of the social housing network as a result of sale to occupiers and demolitions were subtracted from the number of houses that came into the system.

The figures are based on an analysis of figures from the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC), the most comprehensive data set on social housing in the State.

The architect and housing policy analyst Mel Reynolds who carried out the research told The Irish Times that the lack of activity across the social housing market, particularly in Dublin, over recent years has been “jaw-dropping”.


NOAC collates additions to social stock across the State’s 31 city and county councils with figures that include new builds, new and second-hand acquisitions, properties coming back into stock and Part V units acquired from developers and allows for stock leaving the system as a result of the sale of units to tenants and demolitions.

The analysis by Mr Reynolds suggests that nationwide 10,108 local authority homes were added to stock from all sources over the five-year period which works out at 2,022 each year, a cumulative increase of 7.7 per cent.

Across the four local authorities in Dublin, 999 homes were added over the same period, an increase of 2.3 per cent.

Dublin City Council saw a net loss of 268 homes in five years, falling from 24,990 in 2017 to 24,772 in 2021.

Cork County Council similarly saw a net loss of 302 homes, down from 7,965 in 2017 to 7,663 in 2021.

Fingal County Council saw a net increase of 780 in five years, South Dublin County Council climbed by 452, while in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, there was a net increase of just 35.

Cork City and Kildare had the highest net increases in stock of 1,437 and 1,230 respectively which amounted to 26.4 per cent of the overall stock.

“These numbers have been hiding in plain sight and they are an absolute measure,” said Mr Reynolds. “We keep hearing that local authorities are far more active then they were but they are not and that is why people are on waiting lists for more than a decade and why the levels of resentment when it comes to housing are rising.”

He noted that the least amount of activity has been happening in Dublin, “the area with the most expensive rents, longest waiting lists and the least affordable home. The only way you will get a house is if a tenant dies”.

“The impression that is being given by official announcements is that there is a lot of activity in the market when that is not the case at all. The Department of Housing can sometimes make the figures as impenetrable as possible and you can have this whole smoke and mirrors things going on.”

His assessment was echoed by TU Dublin academic and housing expert Lorcan Sirr who said the figures “show how few homes are actually being added to the social stock” at a time when there is a waiting list for social housing of 26,000 across the four Dublin councils.

He said that when it comes to the numbers, the information that is being put into the public domain from certain sources can be quite selective and do not tell the full story.

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said that supply was increasing with plans to deliver “the largest State home-building programme ever”.

He noted that the four Dublin local authorities have about 2,000 homes under construction on various sites and more than 3,700 others in their pipelines for delivery.

He added that a “significant proportion of housing delivery is by approved housing bodies”, which “is not part of local authority stock and is therefore not considered in the NOAC reports”.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast