The Census of Population results, which were issued by the Central Statistics Office on Thursday 29 March 2007, are the first of a series of reports that will issue over the coming year, all of which will have to be evaluated as part of policy development.
The CSO report indicated that about 266,000 dwellings were vacant on the Census night in April 23 2006. These statistics are derived from an analysis of the Enumerators' books in an attempt to capture the reasons why a Census form has not been received from a given housing unit.
The housing stock data indicate that approximately 50,000 of the vacant units were holiday homes. For example, the highest rate of vacancies is recorded in counties along the Atlantic Coastal and Shannon regions where holiday homes are common. Such dwellings are an important part of the country's broader tourism infrastructure, and along with other forms of tourist accommodation such as Bed and Breakfast and Hotel accommodation generate employment and tourist activity in these areas.
The remaining 216,000 vacant dwellings made up about 12% of the total housing stock. In a growing dynamic housing market, fuelled mainly by rapid economic growth and demographic changes, it may be expected that a certain level of vacant dwellings will be recorded on any given night. This may arise, for example, when houses are used to accommodate family members closer to their work or study locations, when properties are for sale or during periods of vacancy between tenancies.
Further analysis of the data is required before drawing conclusions on the policy implications. My Department is in discussion with the CSO on this issue. What is clear from the information, is that the policy of increasing housing supply has been a success with almost 300,000 dwellings completed in the inter census period — an average of 75,000 dwellings per year. This is a phenomenal response to the rapid increase in our population and shows a strong capacity to respond to the continuing needs of our growing population.