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Frequently Asked Questions

CSO statistical publication, , 11am
Census Results 2022 Branding

How is a vacant dwelling defined in the census? 

A dwelling is classed as vacant by census enumerators if it is unoccupied on Census Night, is not used as a holiday home and is not usually inhabited by occupants who are temporarily absent at the time of census.

The Census definition of a vacant dwelling is a point in time indicator taken on Census Night as to whether the property was inhabited or not on Sunday 03 April 2022.

Census vacancy should not be used as a measure of long term vacancy or compared directly with vacancy figures produced by other sources which may use different definitions or methodology.

The Census vacancy definition has been used over several censuses which enables comparisons over time.

Can you explain how the enumerator classifies the dwelling as vacant?

A dwelling could be classed as vacant if it is unoccupied because it is up for sale, under renovation or because it is an uninhabited rental property. A dwelling being classified as vacant for census purposes does not necessarily imply that it is available for reuse. Census vacancy is essentially a point in time measure which may be different to other reported measures of vacancy which may focus more on longer term vacancy.

Holiday homes are not part of the vacant dwellings count.

Dwellings under construction and derelict properties are also not included in the count of vacant dwellings. Dwellings which are classified as under construction for the census are not yet habitable as they are missing one or more of items such as their roof, windows, or doors. Derelict dwellings are not habitable because they are run down, boarded up, or generally in a poor state of repair.

More on the criteria and rules applied by enumerators in determining vacancy can be found below.

The CSO reported 163,433 vacant houses and apartments in Census 2022. How did the CSO get this figure?

The Census field operation involved enumerators visiting more than two million homes across Ireland in the weeks around Census Night, 03 April 2022. These visits involved making contact with members of the public to deliver and collect census forms. In some cases, despite repeated visits by the enumerator, the door remained unanswered. In these situations, the enumerator made an assessment based on CSO vacancy rules and training. This resulted in some of the dwellings being marked as vacant.

The number of vacant dwellings recorded in Census 2022 fell by 11% compared with Census 2016. In the same period, the housing stock in Ireland grew by 5%. The vacancy rate therefore fell from 9% to 8%.

The vacancy figures above do not include holiday homes. These are dwellings that were unoccupied on Census Night and are used as seasonal holiday homes by their owners. The number of unoccupied holiday homes increased from 62,148 to 66,956 between 2016 and 2022, a rise of 8%.

Are there figures for long term vacant dwellings?

Just under 48,000 dwellings which were vacant in 2016 were still vacant in 2022. Furthermore, 23,072 dwellings were vacant in 2011, 2016 and 2022. These figures may be an indication of dwellings which were vacant for a longer period of time.

Other figures quoted on vacant dwellings are different to the Census figure. Why is this?

The census vacancy figure is an accurate point in time measure, on Census Night in 2022. This figure was arrived at using detailed procedures and definitions which have been applied consistently over several censuses. It includes dwellings that were vacant for a short period of time. They may have been for sale, for rent, undergoing renovation, or the owner may have been in hospital, or a nursing home. These dwellings may well have been occupied again a few weeks after Census Night and may not be included in other counts of vacancy which tend to focus on longer term vacancy.

Other vacancy measures use different procedures and definitions and so would have arrived at a different number of vacant dwellings.

The number of dwellings attributed as being available to rent seems very high compared with what is available on websites. Why?

Properties which were declared vacant by enumerators on Census Night and described as rental properties include dwellings which were advertised on websites as being for rent, short term lettings including Airbnb properties, and dwellings which were between lettings but may not have been commercially advertised. There were 33,653 vacant dwellings which were rental properties.  This was more than 20% of the total stock of vacant dwellings.

What is the definition of holiday homes?

Holiday homes are dwellings which are unoccupied at the time of the census and are only occupied periodically during the year, typically during the summer. Enumerators class unoccupied dwellings as holiday homes based on information sourced locally. Holiday homes tend to be more highly concentrated in coastal and rural areas.

What were the rules that made enumerators determine the dwellings were vacant?

Census enumerators adhered to detailed procedures that have been developed by the CSO in consultation with key experts across several censuses. As part of these procedures, enumerators varied the times of the day, and days of the week, they called to dwellings in order to make contact with householders. For example, when an enumerator called to a home during the day and failed to make contact, they dropped off their contact telephone number on a calling card. The subsequent visits were at different times such as evenings and weekends.

Enumerators also looked for signs of vacancy such as post and junk mail building up, no lights on at night, no cars in driveways, overgrown gardens, or no windows open. If they observed any signs of occupancy, they could not record the home as vacant. Where they could not make contact with a particular household, the enumerator checked with neighbours to enquire about the dwellings. If neighbours told them there were people living in these dwellings, the enumerator could not record them as vacant.

For Census 2022, the CSO introduced a new smartphone application that enabled enumerators to record information about every home in their area. This gave field managers and Census HQ much greater information than in previous censuses about how many dwellings were being categorised as vacant and allowed identification and investigation of any unusual patterns of housing vacancy in real time.

Would it not be easier for an enumerator to record a home as vacant rather than calling back to try to make contact?

All of the work undertaken as part of the census by enumerators is closely scrutinised by their field managers and Census HQ and is subject to detailed quality assurance procedures. This is designed to ensure that enumerators record the correct details about every home in their area, including whether they are vacant or occupied.

The enumerators are paid based on how successful they were in collecting completed census forms from members of the public. Enumerators have an average of 430 dwellings in their area. In 2022, they were paid €4.10 for every completed census form they collected. They were only paid €1.20 for each vacant home in their area, so enumerators were strongly incentivised to persist in attempting to make contact with householders.

Do you know why the dwellings were vacant?

The CSO has produced new additional figures giving an insight into why some of the 163,433 dwellings were vacant on Census Night. While we don’t have a complete picture, we did note that many of the dwellings recorded as vacant were for sale, were rental properties, had a deceased owner, or were being renovated. Many of these may well have been occupied again a few weeks after the Census was completed.

Has the CSO provided the census list of vacant dwellings to any other government department?

No. The CSO is forbidden by law to give information about individual people or dwellings to any other organisation, government or any third party. We use the information we collect for statistical purposes only.

Why did the Census count so many more vacant dwellings than the Revenue Commissioners?

The Census 2022 count of vacancy is a point in time measure of vacancy recorded by over 5,000 enumerators working across the country between March and May of 2022 while they were delivering and collecting census forms. The census approach to counting and defining vacancy has been consistently tested and used since 2011 allowing comparability over time. Census vacancy should not be used to measure long term vacancy or the number of properties potentially available for reuse. An enumerator could only classify a dwelling as vacant if there was no contact at the property following multiple visits and after enquiries were made with neighbours. Field Supervisors were also required to approve the classification of each dwelling as vacant. To provide more insight into why dwellings may have been vacant at the time of the census, enumerators were provided with a new smartphone application that allowed them to record a reason as to why the dwelling was vacant. 

The vacant dwellings figure reported by the Revenue Commissioners is based on a new approach where vacancy was self-declared by people completing their Local Property Tax return in 2021. This represents a completely different way of defining and measuring vacancy compared with the census and consequently has delivered different results.  It should also be noted that there are other measures of housing vacancy based on alternative definitions and approaches that also produce a different count, including the figures regularly published by the Geodirectory in the Geoview report.

Where can I find more information on the census vacancy count?

We would be happy to offer guidance on how to interpret this information. Please contact us at or (+353) 1 895 1460.