Boarded up homes on Connaught St, Phibsboro earlier this year
You may recall how the Census 2016 figures which showed 183,312 vacant houses in Ireland – excluding vacant holiday homes.
And how Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week that:
“…the numbers [of houses] that are really vacant are actually much smaller than any of the figures show.”
And the Irish Times reporting last week:
“… the real number of unoccupied houses and apartments might only be a tiny fraction of that, if the results of an investigation carried out by Fingal County Council are replicated elsewhere.
“Its study, which involved council officials visiting houses listed as vacant, found that only a very small number of houses in the north county Dublin authority area (perhaps only 50 or 60) were genuinely unoccupied, compared with the 3,000 figure stated for Fingal in the official census returns.”
Rob Kitchin, on his Ireland After Nama blog, has looked at this story, acknowledging he couldn’t locate the Fingal County Council report or press release.
Mr Kitchin is a Professor of Human Geography and Director of the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis at the National University of Maynooth
“What is reported in the IT is:
‘The council initially conducted a desktop exercise on the 3,000 supposedly vacant properties. When commercial properties, as well as those in construction or in the planning process, were eliminated the figure fell to 361 properties.’ They then visited 74 of the 361 homes to check on occupancy, though it’s not stated how those 74 were sampled.
Of those 74 visited, they discovered that only 13 were actually vacant. In other words, rather than having a vacancy rate of 5% (as reported in the 2016 census – 4,944 vacant units + 289 holiday homes), they have a rate of about 1% – far below what might be an expected base vacancy level of 6% (there are always some units vacant due to selling, gaps between renting, working temporarily elsewhere, people in healthcare, etc.).
I have no doubt in the 18 months since the census in April 2016 properties that were vacant will have been occupied, however it seems unlikely that vacancy is so far below base vacancy, which is what the IT piece seems to be suggesting.
“In terms of method it is unlikely that the CSO shared the individual addresses of vacant properties as identified in the census with Fingal.
“But if they were working from census data then it does not include commercial properties, nor properties under-construction, or in the planning process, or derelict.
“So removing those properties from census counts would make no sense – they were never counted by the CSO. Indeed, in a rebuttal story in the Irish Times, the CSO stand over their data and method – which is to send enumerators to every property in the country, to visit upwards of ten times if they fail to get an answer, and to talk to neighbours to try and ascertain the use status.
“…In my view, there needs to be a branch-and-root review of property data in Ireland.
“This needs to start with asking the question: what data do we need to generate to best understand planning, housing, commercial property, infrastructure need, etc?
“…With good quality data that people trust we might avoid different agencies producing wildly estimates of some element of housing or commercial property, such as vacancy rates, and we would greatly aid our planning and economic development.
“However, if we carry on as we are, we’re going to continue to fly half-blind and only have a partial or flawed understanding of present conditions and we are going to replicate mistakes of the past.”
Thanks Mel Reynolds