House building among lowest in Europe as population soars

Analysts say output needs to be trebled to meet demand

Housing output in Ireland is the fourth-lowest of the European Union. Stock Image: Getty Images

The level of house building in this country is one of the lowest in Europe, despite the rapid population growth.

New figures from Goodbody Stockbrokers show that 2,367 housing units were built during the first three months of the year.

The figure is an increase of 45pc on the same time last year, but it is still way behind where the country needs to be on the housing front, Goodbody economist Dermot O'Leary said.

The Goodbody study uses building energy rating (BER) registrations to track the number of new homes coming into the market. This compares to Department of Housing figures, which rely on ESB connections. BER registrations are regarded as a more accurate barometer of house-building activity.

Mr O'Leary said there needs to be three times more housing units built if the supply of homes is to catch up with demand.

"More than a trebling of output is still required from here to catch up with estimated annual demand," he said.

Most construction activity is in Dublin, with almost half of all homes completed being in and around the city.

The fastest growth was in Dublin's commuter counties, which experienced a rise of 80pc compared with a year earlier.

The Greater Dublin Area accounted for seven out of 10 of the units completed in the first three months of the year.

"Our BER analysis does not pick up an element of self-build units. Assuming 1,500 are not picked up because of this factor, then annual housing output is running at 11,500," Mr O'Leary said.

He said this amounts to 2.4 house completions per thousand of the population.

This means housing output in Ireland is the fourth-lowest of the European Union.

Portugal, Italy and Spain currently have the lowest levels of output in the EU.

The European average is estimated at 3.4 housing units completed per 1,000 people.

"Given rapid population growth and a record low level of stock for sale, Ireland needs completions per capita to be well ahead of EU averages," Mr O'Leary said.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) questioned the figures.

Director of development, housing and planning services with the CIF Hubert Fitzpatrick said BER certificates were not a good measure of the level of new builds.

"There needs to be a better form of measurement of new builds," he told RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland'.

He claimed the number of new self-builds could actually be as high as 7,500.

The CIF is forecasting 23,000 completions in 2018.

The Department of Housing's official measure showed new builds of some 19,271 for 2017.

This compares with a figure of 9,441 based on BER certificates.

David Kieran