Urban boom as over 2.8 million people are now living in towns


THE URBAN population has hit an all-time high with more than 2.8 million people living in towns, according to the 2011 census.

When the census was conducted last April, 62 per cent of the population was living in urban areas, which were classified as towns with 1,500 people or more. This was an increase of 10.5 per cent since the 2006 census, when there were 2,574,313 people in urban areas. The population of rural Ireland grew by 4.6 per cent during the same period.

Some 50 years ago, 53.6 per cent of people were living in rural areas.

Ireland’s population now stands at 4,588,252 – an increase of 8.2 per cent since the 2006 census. Not surprisingly, the main areas of population growth were the commuter belt counties to the north and west of Dublin. They, along with Wexford and Cork, grew by more than 10 per cent.

However, Dublin city has lost population share of the total urban population at the expense of other urban areas. In 1961, Dublin city accounted for more than half the urban population of the country. By last April this had fallen to 39 per cent.This fall was offset by the growth of large towns.

Laois was by far the fastest growing county with an increase in population of one-fifth between April 2006 and April 2011.

Galway accounted for the highest percentage of one-off houses, with 60 per cent of houses detached houses with septic treatment systems. Overall, one-off houses accounted for onequarter of all households.

Almost 290,000 homes were vacant on census night – some 14.5 per cent of all homes. Just over one in five were holiday homes.

Leitrim had the highest vacancy rate with more than 30 per cent of homes vacant while Donegal had a vacancy rate of 29 per cent. South Dublin had the lowest vacancy rate at 5 per cent.

The census also sheds some light on people’s living conditions. It found that almost 27,000 private housing units, or less than one in 50, had no central heating while just over 2,000 households had no piped water.

Some 2,555 households said they had no sewerage facility. Just over one million households were connected to a public sewerage scheme while almost 438,000 had individual septic tanks.

The majority of Irish people either had a mortgage on their homes or owned them outright while under 30 per cent rented their home.

In total, there were just under 1.65 million occupied permanent housing units – up 13 per cent since 2006.

Detached houses were the most popular type of home, accounting for 42 per cent of all housing units. Flats and apartments showed the largest increase, from 110,000 in 2006 to 150,000 in 2011, a 27 per cent increase.

The death of the bed-sit is highlighted by the research – the self-contained units accounted for less than one per cent of housing units last year – a fall of 35 per cent since 2006. There were just 5,700 bedsits in the country and Dublin accounted for more than 70 per cent of those.

The building boom of the 1990s is reflected in the fact that more than one in four occupied dwellings were built in the 10 years leading up to the census.

The census found almost 475,000 households were renting. This compared with just over 300,000 in the 2006 census but the question had been modified so comparisons should be treated with caution.

Since 2006 the average weekly rent paid fell by one per cent to €136.