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Apartments: What The Data Tells Us & The Politicians Do Not...

"40,000 - 50,000 new units are required"  "Only 6% built after the year 2000"

Richard O'Neill
Managing Director
Thursday, Mar 23 2023

Ireland remains in the midst of a severe & well-documented housing crisis. The latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures put Ireland's population at some 5.12m, the highest level since The Famine, with further increases expected. On the housing side, a total of 29,851 housing completions were conducted in 2022 according to CSO, up 45.2% from 20,553 in 2021.

"40,000 - 50,000 new units are required

Despite the increase in completions, revised estimates of 40,000 – 50,000 new units are required to meet the growing demand. According to the latest AIB Property Report, a “sharp drop” in housing completions is likely this year and in 2024, leading to a contraction in supply. The report, which deals with supply and demand in the sector, says an area of “immediate concern” on the supply side is the “lack of viability” of apartment development. 


Despite the clear housing shortage, an acute level of public and political opposition to apartment development remains. Google search "Controversial plan for apartments Dublin" and 13.3 million results appear.  The first page of entries contains many of the nation’s main media outlets quoting neighbours, objectors & local TDs touting on a continual blast of “Overbearing”, “Mini-Manhattan”, and “Lack of family units”. Yet when we look at Dublin’s existing housing stock against the underlying demographics, the case is clear, in a lot of areas we absolutely need both “Overbearing” and “Mini Manhattan”.

If we take Glasnevin as one random example of a city fringe location, it’s within walking distance to the City Centre, is situated near major bus, road & rail links, as well as being in close proximity to several hospitals and two university campuses – DCU alone accounts for some 17,000 students and 620 staff.

"Only 6% built after the year 2000"

When we look at the housing data for Glasnevin, 57% of the area’s housing stock was constructed between 1919 & 1960, with only 6% being built after the year 2000, furthermore, 93% the overall housing stock is houses, thereby highlighting the severe shortage of traditional rental accommodation, i.e. apartments. As an area, it's geography lends itself to large-scale, dense apartment development, and the area is clearly suffering from dated housing stock, so why isn't there far more development activity? Here comes the rhetoric...

"Would only exacerbate the housing crisis"

Lying a short hop down the road in  Drumcondra, we see the leader of the opposition & Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou Macdonald quoted in the media that the approval for a 1,592-strong Hines apartment scheme "would only exacerbate the housing crisis” (Source: The Irish Times, 27th Jan’23). We'll allow you to draw your own conclusions on the logic of this quote. 

"He intends to bring an end to BTR"

It’s not just the opposition pandering to the local voters and social media activities, in late 2022 a spokesperson for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien TD was quoted on the upcoming revisions on the Build to Rent (BTR) building standards as “he intends to bring an end to BTR which was effectively established as a separate class of development for planning purposes under the 2018 apartment guidelines.” BTR hitherto has been one of the few viable angles for apartment development in this country - and is now being made more prohibitive to developers & their funders at a time of climbing interest rates and spiralling construction costs. Again, this is a position that flies in the face of the underlying demographic, housing completions, and existing housing stock data.

We’ve centred on Dublin 9 as one example, but almost every area of Dublin will almost inevitably tell the same tale. Until policy and media commentary align with reality on this subject, then the housing crisis will surely only grow.

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