Housing Completions 13,000 below Housing for All Target in 2021

Posted on Wednesday, 2 February 2022
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The latest data from the CSO shows that just 20,433 dwellings were built in 2021, 93 less than 2020 and almost 13,000 less than the Housing for All target of 33,000. One in every four new completion in 2021 was an apartment and, notwithstanding Government's commitment to regenerating and sustaining towns and villages, the urban-rural divide persists.



Types of Dwelling

According to the CSO, 5,107 of the 20,433 dwellings completed in 2021 were apartments. This represents an increase of 30.3 per cent on the number of apartments completed in 2020 (when it was 3,920). Scheme dwellings continued to account for more than half of all completions (10,644), however the number has decreased by 8.7 per cent on the previous year. The number of single unit completions have also decreased, from 4,942 in 2020 to 4,682 in 2021, a decrease of 5.3 per cent.

Size of Dwelling

The increase or decrease in size of newly completed dwellings depends on the type of dwelling. Single dwellings increased from 231sqm in 2011 to 240sqm in 2013, before decreasing to 215sqm in 2021. Scheme dwellings increased from 108sqm in 2011 to 142sqm in 2014, before decreasing again to 116 sqm in 2021. Apartment sizes increased by 10sqm on average between 2011 and 2015 (from 73sqm to 83sqm), before falling to 78sqm in 2021. 

Behind these data is, of course, an increase in the number of apartments being constructed each year for the Buy to Rent / Buy to Let market and the decrease in standards and sizes as a result of changes to regulations for this sector.

The Urban / Rural Divide

Notwithstanding the Government's commitment, in both the Programme for Government and its Rural Development Policy 'Our Rural Future', to revitalising rural towns and villages by investing in infrastructure and services to regenerate rural communities, more than four in every five dwelling completed in 2021 was in an urban area, and over three in four apartments completed were located in Dublin. 

Four regions - Midlands, Dublin, Mid-West and South-East, experienced an increase in completions in 2021 compared to 2020, with the highest relative rise (10.6 per cent) experienced in the Mid-West. The largest relative decrease, on the other hand, was experienced in the West (a decrease of 11.7 per cent on 2020), followed by the Border region with a 7.3 per cent decrease.

The West and South-West continue to account for the highest number of single dwelling completions, 774 and 763 respectively. If rural economies are to thrive, we need to move away from low-work-intensity dwelling construction projects such as single dwellings, and instead meet the commitments made in 'Our Rural Future' to invest in change of use of over-the-shop dwellings and Town and Village Renewal which would contribute to local economic development.


Who's buying?

The Government's Housing for All Strategy has, as it's overall aim, that:

Everyone in the State should have access to a home to purchase or rent at an affordable price, built to a high standard and in the right place, offering a high quality of life.

That being the case, who is buying these newly constructed homes? 

According to data on house purchases, also available from the CSO, an increasing proportion of newly built residential dwellings are being purchased by non-household entities, that is, institutions. Table 1 below shows the number of New Dwelling Constructions, Purchases of New Dwellings, and Purchases of New Dwellings by Non-Household Entities for the years 2011-2020. 

The number of new dwelling completions increased from 6,994 in 2011 to 20,526 in 2020. In the same period, the number of purchases of new dwellings increased from 3,293 to 12,182. It must be noted, of course, that the purchase of a new property in any particular year does not mean that that property was completed in the same year - a property completed in 2019 could have been sold as a 'new build' in 2020. It is also true that not all properties completed will be sold. Notwithstanding this, it is interesting to note the number of purchases of new dwellings by Non-Household Entities as a proportion of both all purchases of new dwellings and a proportion of completions in the same year. 

Between 2011 and 2020, the number of new dwellings purchased by Non-Household Entities increased from 400 to 4,608 - an increase of more than 1000 per cent. As a proportion of all new dwelling purchases, purchases by Non-Household Entities increased from 12.1 per cent to 37.8 per cent from 2011 to 2020; and as a proportion of completions, from 5.7 per cent to 22.4 per cent. 

Table 1: No. of New Dwelling Completions, All Purchases (New Dwellings), and Purchases (New Dwellings) by Non-Household Entities 2011-2020
Year Completions All Purchases (New Dwellings) Purchases by Non-Household Entities (New Dwellings) Purchases (New Dwellings) by Non-Household Entities as % of All Purchases (New Dwellings) Purchases (New Dwellings) by Non-Household Entities as % Completions
2011 6,994 3,293 400 12.1 5.7
2012 4,911 3,524 419 11.9 8.5
2013 4,575 3,994 529 13.2 11.6
2014 5,518 5,887 986 16.7 17.9
2015 7,219 6,938 1,788 25.8 24.8
2016 9,852 7,657 1,667 21.8 16.9
2017 14,329 9,817 2,090 21.3 14.6
2018 17,903 11,780 2,803 23.8 15.7
2019 21,049 13,524 4,444 32.9 21.1
2020 20,526 12,182 4,608 37.8 22.4

Source: CSO, New Dwelling Completions Q4 2021, Table 1; PxStat HPA09; PxStat HPA10; author's calculations


An increase in the supply of residential properties is a good thing, but only if that supply is at the right price-point to provide affordable, long-term housing for the thousands of households across Ireland who need it. An increase in supply of lower-standard buildings aimed at a 'transient' sector (a matter for a different article) and purchased by institutional investors is not delivering Homes for All.