How many new houses are being built?
A chara, – The only reasonable conclusion one can draw from Minister for Housing Coveney’s letter (April 25th) is that neither he nor his department know how many new houses are being built each year. ESB connections are a wholly unreliable and misleading surrogate for such data. If the Minister cannot be trusted to provide reliable data on housing, how can he be trusted to tackle the ever-deepening housing and homelessness crisis? – Is mise,
EOIN Ó BROIN TD
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Continuing to use electricity connections as a proxy for counting new homes is unnecessary when two established statutory databases are publicly available. Since 2013, it is a legal requirement for a BER (building energy rating) to be recorded on the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) Register prior to the occupation of every new estate house, apartment and one-off house. Since 2014, it is a legal requirement for all construction to be recorded on the BCMS (Building Control Management System) Register operated by the LGMA (Local Government Management Agency). Both of these databases are in real-time and list every new home by address and date of construction. – Yours, etc,
School of Architecture,
& Environmental Policy,
University College Dublin,
Sir, – Minister for Housing Simon Coveney refers to research by us trying to ascertain an accurate level of new house-building in Ireland in 2016.
Contrary to the Minister’s reassurance that his department has always been transparent, the relevant housing completion numbers are the only significant figures not published online by the Department of Housing.
Naturally, while we take the Minister at his word that his department has not been manipulating the house-building numbers, there are some questions that remain unanswered. How did 21 certificates of completions for estate houses and apartments in Cork city in 2016 transmogrify to 287 in the department’s figures, or from zero completions to 68 houses in Roscommon? If there were 8,729 new estate houses and apartments finished in 2016, according to the department, why were there only 4,200 stamp duty transactions for the same type of properties?
The Minister is quite correct to say one should not use data outside its proper context or without testing its validity. The same advice could be applied to the use of ESB connections as a measure of national house-building. It is only in recent weeks that the department has added a footnote acknowledging its figures are only a proxy. Our sources were a direct indicator of activity.
The onus is now on the Department of Housing to clarify the difference between the number of houses built last year calculated using an index of direct activity, at 2,076, versus his figure of 14,932 calculated using a proxy indicator. – Yours, etc,
Dr LORCAN SIRR,
Sir, – While Minister for Housing Simon Coveney seeks to highlight “the dangers of obtaining and interpreting data without proper context or testing its validity”, he does not seem to have paid as much attention to the guidelines for letter writers, which emphasise the need for brevity. – Yours, etc,
CAOIMHIN de BHAILIS,