Belfast Telegraph

245,000 homes found to be lying vacant on Census night 2016

There were almost a quarter of a million homes lying empty on Census night last year.

Amid an unprecedented crisis in homelessness, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said it counted 183,312 vacant houses and apartments on April 24 2016.

It also recorded 62,148 holiday homes with no-one living in them.

The town with the highest vacancy levels was B lacklion in Co Cavan were just under half of the properties were lying empty.

The border town was closely followed by Keshcarrigan in Co Leitrim where 45.6% of the residential properties lay empty and Kilgarvan in Co Kerry which had a 43.1% vacancy rate.

Among the big towns, Letterkenny in Co Donegal fared worst where almost 15% of homes had no-one living in them, closely followed by Longford with a 14.6% vacancy rate and Ballina at 14.3%.

The CSO said it had prioritised the release of census data on housing due to the demand from society in general for a clearer picture of how the market was changing.

The agency revealed a "considerable slowdown" in the number of homes being built, with the country's housing stock increasing by just 8,800 homes from 2011 and 2016.

In the five years from 2006 to 2011 the number was 225,232.

Other findings included 95,013 permanent households where there were more people than rooms, home ownership levels back to where they were in 1971 and if you are 35 or under you are more likely to rent a property than own one.

The CSO said its analysis found a 15% drop in the number of empty homes compared with 2011.

It said that when holiday homes were taken out of the equation there were 79,966 vacant detached houses, 60,154 semi-detached or terraced dwellings lying unoccupied and another 43,192 apartments with no-one living in them.

The Peter McVerry Trust housing and homeless charity said politicians and policymakers need to recognise that empty homes can immediately alleviate the country's housing crisis.

Spokesman Francis Doherty said: " The quickest and most efficient way of making more homes available is to get empty homes back into use.

"Peter McVerry Trust has been identifying and turning around empty properties for the last three years and we know it can be done.

"If the resources are made available it can be delivered on a much larger scale."

The CSO report also revealed the scale of issues in the rental market with the number of households paying at least 300 euro a week to private landlords shooting up by 166% to 48,933.

The average weekly rent around census time was 199.92 euro, up from 171.19 euro in 2011.

The highest rates are paid in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council area at 335 euro while in Dublin city it is 276 euro, South Dublin 259 euro, and Fingal 261 euro.

The lowest rates were in Leitrim at 99 euro a week.

Nearly half a million people were renting with 326,493 households in a lease with a private landlord, the report said.

And the CSO said the number of owner-occupier households fell by more than 1,000 to 1,147,552 in 2016.

Focus Ireland said more urgent action is required to bring suitable vacant homes back into the market and fast-track new builds.

"Neither of these has really happened yet despite a record number of 7,421 people being homeless," said s pokesman Roughan MacNamara.

Focus Ireland said the Government should consider a tax on empty homes and stronger policies to stop developers hoarding land.

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