Property parlance: Know your Nimby from your Yimby

A-Z highlights from a new guide to Irish housing which aims to demystify the jargon

The Absorption Rate is the rate at which builders supply the market in order to maintain selling prices without flooding the market and causing prices to fall. Despite there being a demographic demand for, say, 35,000 houses a year, the market demand is probably less than half that, which is the rate of absorption.

The ubiquitous one-storey detached bungalow comes from an east-Indian Hindi word (bangala) used to describe the high-status houses occupied by officers of the British Raj. Bungalows are very popular in rural Ireland, in part due to the late Jack Fitzsimons's 1972 Bungalow Bliss patternbook of designs.

There are more than 152,000 couples cohabiting in Ireland. People are deemed to be cohabiting when they have lived together for five years, or two years if they have a child together. Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples or civil partnerships. For example, married couples must give written consent before selling the family home. This does not apply to cohabiting couples, meaning one party could sell the house without the permission of the other.

Digs are a form of temporary lodgings in a house, with or without breakfast. It is a late 19th-century word, short for "diggings", probably referring to where a farmer digs and lives.


Equity of tenure is where governments do not prioritise one form of housing over another, and policy therefore makes no distinction between consumers who rent or own their dwelling. Equity of tenure is part of current Irish housing policy.

Farm is an old word for rent, which makes more sense of a term like fee farm grant, a form of freehold based on the payment of rent and observance of covenants. The creation of new fee farm grants are prohibited since 2009.

To gazump is to refuse to sell a house to someone to whom it was previously agreed, and instead to sell it to someone who had subsequently made a higher offer. To gazunder is where a prospective purchaser retracts their offer shortly before contracts are due to be signed and makes a lower offer instead. Both gazundering and gazumping are legal in Ireland as the sale of a house is not legally binding until contracts are exchanged.

As of Census 2016, Ireland has a housing stock of 2,003,645 houses and apartments. The housing stock excludes non-permanent dwellings such as caravans and mobile homes as well as 4,140 communal establishments. Detached houses are the most popular dwelling type, followed by semi-detached houses. About one-quarter of all Irish houses were built from 2001 to 2010.

In Switzerland, owner-occupiers pay a tax based on an imputed rent for their dwelling. This is a tax based on the rent their property could achieve in the market, and helps equalise the benefits of renting or owning.

Where a property is held by persons as tenants in common, each is the absolute owner of a their proportion of the property and on death their proportion goes to their inheritors. Joint tenants are distinguished from tenants in common in that, on the death of a joint tenant, the right to the whole property passes to the other tenant. The last survivor of joint tenants then becomes the absolute owner of the property.

Several European countries provide housing specifically for their "key workers" who earn too much for social housing but not enough to buy their own house. These are teachers, social workers, police officers and other essential workers, of which there are about 140,000 in Ireland. To date, there has been no development of dedicated key worker housing in Ireland.

A lease is a written tenancy contract between two or more parties for the right to occupy property (land or buildings) in exchange for payment. There is no legal requirement for a landlord to provide a tenant with a lease, nor is there an obligation on a tenant to sign a lease. When a lease is signed together with other people, if other tenants cannot pay their share of the rent, the remaining tenant may be legally liable for the entire amount.

John Charles McQuaid (1895-1973) was Archbishop of Dublin between 1940 and 1972. When designing new housing developments in Dublin in the 1940s, the planning department of the Dublin Corporation would send their master plans to Archbishop McQuaid, for personal approval. If he disapproved, as was common, the plans would have to be redrafted until acceptable.

A pejorative acronym for Not In My Back Yard, Nimby is a reference to someone, or a group, who objects to development, particularly of an unpleasant nature, close to their property, but usually has no problem with it being located elsewhere. The extreme version is known as Banana – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.

In housing terms, obsolescence refers to when a building becomes no longer inhabitable and beyond functional use. Obsolescence is a normal part of any housing stock and ranges between 0.4-0.6 per cent per annum.

In the construction of housing, practical completion means: "the works having been carried to such a stage that they can be taken over and used by the Employer for their intended purpose". Practical completion is usually certified by the architect, at which stage insurance for the building moves from the builder to the owner.

There are at least three main indicators related to housing and quality of life: housing quality – space, light and general condition; housing environment – noise, crime, proximity of public services such as schools; and housing expenditure burden – how much does the housing cost the household each month.

"Renoviction" (a combination of renovation and eviction) is a colloquial term for the illegal termination of a tenancy under the pretext that the landlord is to substantially refurbish or renovate the dwelling as per section 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. The landlord subsequently fails to carry out the refurbishment and instead rents the property to new tenants at an increased rent.

Adverse possession (also known as squatters' rights) allows a third party to claim a right over land which is registered in the name of another person on the basis that they have occupied the land continuously for 12 years or more with the intention of excluding others, including the registered owner of the land. It is possession of land inconsistent with the title of the true owner.

Tenure comes from the French word tenir, which means to hold. The different tenures in Ireland are home ownership, with or without a loan, at 67.6 per cent (82 per cent in rural areas, 59.2 per cent in urban areas); renting from the private sector or an approved housing body at 20.18 per cent; and renting from a local authority at 8.85 per cent.

Any development which requires planning permission and does not have that permission, or which is going ahead in breach of the specific conditions set out in its planning permission, is classed as "unauthorised development". The carrying out of unauthorised development is an offence and any person who has carried it out may be subject to enforcement proceedings.

The overall vacancy rate in Census 2016, including holiday homes, was 12.3 per cent. If holiday homes are excluded from the housing stock the vacancy rate drops to 9.4 per cent. A vacancy rate of between 2.5 per cent and 6 percent is considered normal in a properly functioning housing market.

A wayleave is a right of way across land or property usually for the provision of services or infrastructure such as gas pipelines or electricity pylons. Where a wayleave is being acquired over agricultural land, it is normal practice to agree compensation by way of a once-off payment per linear metre; or a sum equating to a percentage of the agricultural value of the land affected.

Yimby or Yes In My Back Yard, is a pro-development, pro-growth movement as an opposition to the more commonly known Nimby. It is often regarded as a developer-led, anti-planning, pro-deregulation movement.

Zoning is a town-planning tool whereby specific parts of a local authority's area are designated for specific uses (for example, industrial, amenity, residential). This is illustrated on a map as part of the authority's development plan. The main objective of zoning is to promote the orderly development of a local authority area by eliminating potential conflicts between incompatible land uses and to establish an efficient basis for investment in public infrastructure and facilities.

Dr Lorcan Sirr is a senior lecturer in housing at the Technological University Dublin and author of Housing in Ireland: the A-Z guide, published by Orpen Press