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Census shows 166,000 vacant properties in Ireland, with over 48,000 vacant for six years

Vacant property levels have fallen 9% since 2016.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

OVER 48,000 dwellings that were recorded as vacant in 2016 remained vacant in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

According to the latest figures, as recorded in the census this year, 166,752 were recorded as vacant in the State – a fall of 9% on 2016 numbers.

The CSO emphasised that the categories for vacancy were broad and not indicative of long-term vacancy.

35,000 vacant homes were vacant because they were up for rent, while the property owners of 27,000 dwellings had passed away, and a further 23,000 were under renovation.

The CSO states that properties that are classed as vacant in the census may only be vacant for a short period of time. 

However, it said it is possible to provide some insight into the number of dwellings that were vacant for longer time periods by linking individual dwellings across the 2011, 2016 and 2022 censuses.

Over 90% of vacant dwellings included in Census 2022 could be linked back to Census 2016 and almost 85% back to Census 2011 as well.

More than 30% (48,387) of the dwellings vacant in 2022 that could be linked were also vacant in 2016. And of these 48,387 dwellings, nearly half (23,483) were also vacant in Census 2011. 

Screenshot - 2022-06-23T131928.755 Source: CSO

Vacant Property Tax 

The latest CSO stats come ahead of more clarity around vacancies being provided through the Local Property Tax (LPT) data, which is due to be published shortly. 

Up until now, the sheer scale of vacant properties dotted around Ireland has been largely unknown.

The Government has committed to bringing in vacant property tax this year, but held off on bringing in the measure last year, stating it would be preferred to wait for an up-to-date picture of vacancy rates in Ireland through the local property tax returns, which were completed in November 2021.

A report on the number of homes that a vacant property tax would apply to is currently being considered by the Department of Finance.

The latest CSO stats will also feed into considerations.  

While there are reports that introducing the vacant property tax could be further delayed as department officials are also seeking ESB connection information, a Government source told The Journal that the electricity usage stats would be “readily available” and would not cause a delay in introducing the tax, stating that for instance, the total number of domestic ESB connections in Q1 2022 was 6,540.

They added that any new vacant property tax introduced in Budget 2023 is not aimed as a tax raising measure but more of a deterrent.

Reasons for vacancy

Screenshot - 2022-06-23T122415.216 Source: CSO

The reasons cited for why a property was vacant shows that rental properties accounted for over 20% (35,380 dwellings) of the vacant residential units identified in the census.

This figure included short term lettings and properties that were between lets but may not have been advertised.

A further almost 18,000 properties (11%) were for sale.

This included dwellings that were sale agreed or recently sold.

Galway City (38%) and Dublin City (30%) were the areas with the highest proportions of vacant rental properties.

In contrast, Roscommon (16%), Cork County (16%) and Galway County (17%) had the lowest proportions of vacant rental units.

In Roscommon (25%), Galway County (24%) and Mayo (24%) properties were most often vacant because the owner was deceased.

In Galway City (6%) and Fingal (8%) this was much less common.

Properties in the cities were in general less likely to be vacant because the residents had emigrated than for rural dwellings.

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Abandoned farmhouses were almost non-existent in urban areas and more common in rural areas such as Leitrim (17%) and Sligo (16%).

Of the vacancy data released today, the CSO states that it does not include holiday homes, of which there were 66,135, compared with 62,148 in 2016.

The CSO states that the dwelling being classified as vacant for census purposes does not necessarily imply that it is available for re-use.

The CSO has said that the census vacancy is essentially “a point in time” measure which may be different to other reported measures of vacancy which may focus more on longer term vacancy.

It may be unoccupied because it is up for sale or rent, under renovation, or if the owner has passed away, or is in a nursing home.

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