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Factcheck: Were 18,000 new homes built in Ireland last year?

Housing figures are always a point of contention – let’s clear this up.

QUESTIONS HAVE AGAIN been raised about the true number of homes being built in Ireland after the Taoiseach spoke about construction at his party’s Ard Fheis last week. 

In his speech at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Varadkar said more than 18,000 new homes had been built in 2018. 

Some people have questioned whether the Taoiseach had his facts straight:

So, let’s get into it.

THE CLAIM

More than 18,000 new homes were built last year. 

This claim was made by the Taoiseach at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis last Saturday in his speech to delegates. 

He said: “More than 18,000 new homes were built last year. More new homes than any this decade.

“So, tonight there are 18,000 families sitting in front of the TV, sitting around the dinner table, in a home that didn’t exist last year. More new homes built last year than in any year in the last decade.

We need more homes and I mean homes of all sorts. Yes, social housing for people on the housing list, but also private homes for young people to buy. Houses and apartments that people can rent.

Where did the figure he mentioned come from? The Fine Gael press office told TheJournal.ie in response to our query that the Taoiseach got this figure from the Central Statistics Office’s ‘New Dwelling Completions’ data. 

This data shows that some 18,072 new dwellings were completed in 2018.

This was an increase of 25.4% on the number completed in 2017. 

This included 4,699 single units, 11,001 in multi-unit developments and 2,372 apartments. The highest number of new dwelling completions was in Dublin, followed by the mid-east. 

Reliability of this data

Last year Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy told reporters he was unable to give a definitive figure of how many homes had been built in 2017. He said the government did not yet have a way of calculating every single home built in the country on both the social and private side. 

The government had come in for criticism in 2017 for using new ESB electricity connection figures for new home completions. 

This was because new ESB connections also applied to houses that had been vacant for more than two years and then reconnected, and so all the houses called “completions” were not in fact new housing stock.

This resulted in the Housing Department having a different figure than the CSO and others when it came to new homes. To remedy this, the CSO launched its ‘New Dwelling Completions‘ series last year, to attempt to provide a more accurate picture. 

This data is primarily based on data from the ESB, but it has engaged with ESB Networks to separate out non-dwelling connections, like farm buildings and reconnections to the network after more than two years of disconnection.

This data series also uses other sources, such as stamp duty returns and Building Energy Rating certificates, as well as census data and the GeoDirectory property database. 

Essentially this means the CSO data is the most reliable data available as it brings together all of the individual data sets that were previously used on their own.

State involvement in building

The Taoiseach made it clear in his speech that he was not claiming the State paid for all of these homes to be built as local authority housing, as he mentioned both social housing and private developments. 

However it is helpful for context to look at the role the State has played in the building of new homes. Department of Housing figures show there were 2,022 local authority new builds last year.

However this figure includes turnkey scheme homes – built by contract by a private developer – as well as properties that were regenerated, rather than built from scratch. 

There were also 1,388 approved housing body new builds as well as 841 through Part V – the 10% of housing private developers must sell to the council for use as social housing. And local authorities acquired 2,610 properties, though many of these may have been existing properties rather than homes that were built in 2018 and then purchased. 

It is also worth noting that the 18,072 figure, while it is a large increase on previous years, is also significantly off the government’s target of 25,000 homes each year. 

The Rebuilding Ireland plan commits to the production of 25,000 homes every year to 2021. Included in this plan is a commitment to support the delivery of 50,000 social housing homes by the end of 2021, mostly through build but also through acquisition and leasing programmes.

VERDICT

We rate this claim: TRUE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is accurate, and is not missing any significant details or context.

According to the most reliable data available, there were more than 18,000 new homes built in 2018

The majority of these homes were not built by the State for social housing, and the figure is 7,000 below the government target for new builds each year. 

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

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