Census 2016: Number of vacant houses ‘scandalous’

First survey results from April reveal almost 260,000 properties are unoccupied

There are almost 260,000 vacant homes across the country, preliminary figures from the latest census show, prompting campaigners and housing experts to call for urgent action to address the State’s “dysfunctional” housing system.

The census found there are almost 260,000 vacant homes in the State – 61,204 of which are vacant holiday homes – at a time when homeless families are having to be accommodated in hotel and B&B type accommodation.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in housing studies and urban economics at the Dublin Institute of Technology, said that when holiday homes were taken out of the figures, the 198,000 vacant homes represented 9.7 per cent of the total housing stock. “The vacancy rate is roughly twice what it should be,” he said.

Regional variations

Vacancy rates for housing vary widely by county but the overall rate stands at 12.8 per cent. Total vacant dwellings in Dublin, including holiday homes, numbered more than 36,000.


In Leinster vacant dwellings including holiday homes numbered more than 90,000, for Munster there were more than 83,000, for Connacht more than 52,000 and parts of Ulster more than 33,000.

The Simon Community said it was scandalous that there are 198,358 vacant units when we are experiencing the worst housing and homeless crisis.

“There are at least 100,000 people on the social housing waiting list. Clearly having more effective housing stock management across the country is a matter which must be addressed urgently,” spokeswoman Niamh Randall said.

Call for action

The homelessness charity Peter McVerry Trust said the State must “urgently act” to address the volume of empty properties.

Spokesman Francis Doherty said the number of vacant properties was “unacceptably high” and underlined “just how dysfunctional our housing system has become”.

Dr Sirr said the fact the capital had a vacancy rate of nearly 10 per cent was “outrageous”.

“The other thing that’s an outlier from the previous census is the rise of [short-term letting website] Airbnb. They can’t not have an impact,” he said.

Minister for Housing and Planning Simon Coveney is due to publish his Housing Action Plan on Tuesday, subject to Cabinet approval.

A State fund to buy distressed properties from banks and a pledge to build 45,000 new social houses by 2021 are at the centre of the plan.