The Curious Case of the Irish Housing Market

In Ireland, there's one house for every 2.35 people. According to industry experts, that's twice as many vacant homes as a normal, healthy market should have. So why then is the country considered to be in a housing crisis?
February 17, 2017, 8am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Apartments along the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland.
Giannis Papanikos

"The number of vacant homes in Ireland is at twice the level of a normal functioning marketplace," according to an article by Mark Hillard. "Today, the country has just over 2 million dwelling units for a population of 4.75 million, translating to exactly one unit for every 2.35 people."

Hillard is sharing information reported at the Joint National Housing Conference held at Dublin Castle recently. Minister of State for Housing Damien English was in attendance, giving a speech at the event, who described the counter-intuitive state of the Irish housing market: "It is a crazy situation that we have so many vacant properties and so many people who actually need a home and we have to match that up."

The rest of the article by Hillard discusses more of the large themes from the event, including calls to remake the planning and zoning models in the country. James Kelly, a conservation architect from Kelly & Cogan Architects, said the country should look to Florence, Italy "as a paradigm of a city where tradespeople worked in the same areas where people lived."

Writing for the same publication a day later, Eoin Burke-Kennedy shared the findings of a report by Standard and Poor’s (S&P) that predicts it will take a decade to match supply and demand in the country's housing market. The S&P report also sheds some light on the disconnect between vacant housing and unmet demand—the country is still emerging from the effects of the Great Recession, with high levels of household debt, though improvement has been apparent in recent years. "Economy-wide debt-to-disposable income ratio in Ireland fell to 150 per cent last year, down from 170 per cent a year earlier, and from above 230 per cent at its peak in 2009," explains Burke-Kennedy.

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Published on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in The Irish Times
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