Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Irish Housing Facts: Portugal has highest dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants

There are almost as many people renting in Ireland (24.9% with 14.3% subsidised) as those who have home mortgages (26%) — while 45.5% of owner-occupiers have no loans on their properties according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 3.6% are unknown.

Ireland's population expanded by 520,000 in the period 2009-2020 — the Central Statistics Office's (CSO) estimate of Ireland's population in April 2020 is expected to be about 5m — while housing completions in 2009-2019 are expected to be 131,000 (2009 and 2010 are based on ESB connections while 21,000 is an estimate for completions in 2019).

The think-tank for mainly rich country governments also said in 2019, that the number of dwellings per thousand inhabitants was very high in Portugal (over 570 dwellings per 1000 inhabitants). Based on the expected CSO estimate of 5m for the 2020 population, the dwellings ratio per 1,000 is likely to be at 413.

The dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants (including vacant units) were 417 in April 2006 according to the Census — in the calendar year of 2006 a record 93,000 housing units were built. The rate was 427 in Census 2016.

In 2018 Ireland had the highest birth rate and lowest death rate in the European Union (see chart above). Almost a quarter of the births were to non-Irish mothers.

Eurostat also reported in respect of 2018, that the highest share of households with three or more children was registered in Ireland (26%), followed by Belgium and Finland (both 19%), France (18%) and the United Kingdom (17%). At the opposite end of the scale, less than 10% of households with children had at least three children in Bulgaria (5%), Portugal (6%), Spain and Italy (both 8%).

Portugal's population fell 260,000 to 10.29m in the period 2009-2018. However, despite the larger housing stock ratio, average house price rises have been similar to Ireland's in 2015-2018, 29.03% and 31.35% respectively according to Eurostat.

Bloomberg reported last September, "Portugal is Western Europe’s most dynamic property market thanks to tax incentives for foreign buyers and a so-called Golden Visa Program, which offers residence permits in return for a minimum €500,000 ($550,000) investment. The flip side [for locals] is that they have become collateral damage with no prospect of prices cooling any time soon."

Coinciding with the introduction of the Golden Visa in 2012, the government scrapped rent controls.

Bloomberg adds, "Lisbon has become a magnet for tourists in Europe as many investors renovate properties and turn them into short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb. The short-term rentals have been blamed for increasing prices because they target visitors who can afford to pay more than locals."

The OECD said Bulgaria, Spain, Latvia, Finland, (all above 540 dwellings per 1000 inhabitants) followed Portugal with France, Estonia and Switzerland, also have a relatively high number of dwellings compared to the population (all above 530 dwellings per 1000 inhabitants). In contrast, the number of dwellings reported is the lowest in Chile (350) followed by Poland (376) and Korea and New Zealand (383).

Dublin housing crisis

House prices in Dublin in the mid-1970s were similar to national prices.

In November 2019 the median price in the Dublin area was 43% above the national median price – the median is the mid-point with half the sample above and below.

At national level households paid a median price of €259,000 for a dwelling on the residential property market in the 12 months to November 2019.

The Dublin region had the highest median price (€370,000) in the year to November. Within the Dublin region, DĂșn Laoghaire-Rathdown had the highest median price (€527,000), while South Dublin had the lowest (€344,999).

The Dublin County area is 921 square kilometres (km²) which is 1.3% of the State's land area. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has reported that in 2010 38% of the Dublin area comprised farmland.

The population of County Dublin in 1911 was 477,000. Dublin City had 305,000 people and rest of the county 172,00 – this was 15% of the population of the 26 county area of Ireland which was 3.1m.

In 1961 the Dublin area accounted for a quarter of the total population of 2.82m – the lowest census total since independence in 1922. In the 30 years to 2020 the County Dublin ratio has been at 29%.

County Dublin with a population of 1.4m together with over 700,000 living in the adjacent counties of Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow (the Mid-East Region) account for 42% of the total population.

With half Irish business enterprises in County Dublin, high Dublin land prices boost the Mid-East Region with commuters.

The CSO says that "Of the 18,018 new dwellings completed in 2018, 6,736 (37.4%) were in ‘Cities’ and 5,575 of these were in Dublin. The county of Dublin accounted for nearly four in ten (38.3%) of all new dwellings in 2018."

In January 2020, The Economist in a special report noted that:

"Data-crunching by The Economist suggests that the number of new houses constructed per person in the rich world has fallen by half since the 1960s. Because supply is constrained and the system is skewed towards ownership, most people feel they risk being left behind if they rent. As a result politicians focus on subsidising marginal buyers, as Britain has done in recent years. That channels cash to the middle classes and further boosts prices. And it fuels the build-up of mortgage debt that makes crises more likely. It does not have to be this way. Not everywhere is afflicted with every part of the housing curse. Tokyo has no property shortage; between 2013 and 2017 it put up 728,000 dwellings — more than England did — without destroying quality of life. The number of rough sleepers has dropped by 80% in the past 20 years.

In 1990 a generation of baby-boomers, with a median age of 35, owned a third of America’s real estate by value. In 2019 a similarly sized cohort of millennials, aged 31, owned just 4%. Young people’s view that housing is out of reach—unless you have rich parents—helps explain their drift towards “millennial socialism”. And homeowners of all ages who are trapped in declining places resent the windfall housing gains enjoyed in and around successful cities. In Britain areas with stagnant housing markets were more likely to vote for Brexit in 2016, even after accounting for differences in income and demography."

The Irish Times reported in 2018 that:

"Across Dublin there are 1,212 hectares of publicly controlled zoned land, with potential for 33,485 social homes. Some 29,278 would be council homes on 421 hectares owned by local authorities. Nama, which controls 793 hectares, could oversee the building of 42,075 dwellings 4,207 of which would be social housing."

Few Irish apartments but small houses in urban areas

In 2017 the share of persons living in apartments/ flats in the European Union ranged from 8.3% in Ireland to more than 3 out of every 5 people in Estonia (61.8 %), Spain (66.1 %), and Latvia (66.4 %).

According to Eurostat, more than half of the population in Poland (50.5 %) and Denmark (54.1 %) lived in detached houses, while this share rose to more than 60.0 % in Hungary (63.8 %), Romania (64.7 %) and Slovenia (65.2 %), peaking at 70.7 % in Croatia.

Ireland (51.7 %), the Netherlands (58.7 %) and the United Kingdom (60.4 %) were the only EU member states where more than half of the population was living in a semi-detached house in 2017.

The CSO said in 2019, "Detached houses accounted for 42.1% of dwellings nationally, while in rural areas this proportion was above 75%. The smallest proportion of detached houses was 12.3% in ‘Cities.’

The highest share of agricultural land use is in Denmark (63.1%), even though the majority of its houses are detached.

The average Irish house size is the smallest in Western Europe despite a low habitable land density.


Dublin's sprawl in 2006 was used by the European Environment Agency (EEA) as a "worst-case scenario" of urban planning so that newer EU member states such as Poland could avoid making the same mistakes.

An expert at the EEA told the Irish Times that Ireland was "very much on the map in relation to urban sprawl - not just in Dublin, but also around towns and villages throughout the country" as a result of "extremely passive" planning policies.

Change is long overdue from a tradition of copying the British who have had inadequate housebuilding levels for decades!

Nimbies (Not in My Backyard Syndrome) who object to virtually every new development in Dublin and are supported by local politicians; critics of all high rise developments in the city, and most importantly, the cowardice of politicians when it comes to development land, must be confronted.

There is plenty of land in County Dublin to use for modern living without being extorted by land speculators.

The new government should declare a housing emergency in Dublin and as happened in Tokyo, the central government should take control of planning in the capital. Nimbies should be defanged.

The new government should declare a housing emergency in Dublin and as happened in Tokyo, the central government should take control of planning in the capital.

There is a need for inspired planning for the future: In Stockholm, 60% of households comprise single adults without children while the national rate in 2018 was a shocking 56.6%. The Irish rate was 26% and Germany's was 41% — however, the Irish number rose 120,000 since 2009 (ageing of the population would also be a factor).

A determined government would hire experts from cities such as Vienna, Amsterdam and Copenhagen as it wouldn't be hard to make a difference.


Reports from 2018:

Irish real house prices up 175% in 50 years, UK +405%, Germany -1%

Irish Housing Crisis: It’s time for radical solutions — Part 1 — the Irish development land valuation racket

Average Irish housing size lowest of EU's rich countries — Part 2— Dublin sprawl, high rise taboo, social housing and densities in Paris and Dublin