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Vacant Dwellings

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15 per cent fall in vacant dwellings since 2011

As stated in the Housing Stock chapter, 12.3 per cent of the 2,003,645 dwellings that formed the Irish housing stock were vacant according to Census 2016.

Figure 4.1 presents the percentage change in the total housing stock and vacant dwellings from 1996 to 2016.

Between 2002 and 2006, there was an increase in vacant dwellings of 86 per cent, from 143,418 to 266,322.

The number of vacant units continued to increase between 2006 and 2011, albeit at a slower rate of 9 per cent to 289,451 dwelling units.

The 2011-2016 period has seen a 15 per cent drop in vacancy to 245,460 dwellings in 2016.

Change in housing stockChange in vacant dwellings

Interactive table: StatBank Link E1071

Vacancy at building level

There were 203,048 empty buildings in April 2016, of which the vast majority (98.4%) were single-dwelling units. A total of 3,308 multi-dwelling buildings containing 11,680 duplexes, flats or apartments were completely vacant.  Mixed occupied and vacant buildings numbered 15,768 and within these buildings 34,040 units were vacant while 126,154 were either occupied or temporarily absent on census night.

Table 4.1 Breakdown of occupied (including temporarily absent) and vacant dwellings within the Building stock, 2016
 Fully occupied buildingsFully vacant buildingsMixed occupied/vacant buildings
Total buildingsTotal dwellingsTotal buildingsTotal dwellingsTotal buildingsOccupied dwellingsVacant dwellings
Single-dwelling building1,526,1891,526,189199,740199,740   
Multi-dwelling building30,470105,8423,30811,68015,768126,15434,040


Three in ten converted flats vacant

For the first time in Census 2016, the type of dwelling was captured for vacant dwellings and the data is presented in Figure 4.2

Of the total 245,460 vacant dwellings, 62,148 were identified as holiday homes by the enumerators. The majority of these were detached houses (45,163); semi-detached houses accounted for 6,595 while there were 4,572 apartments (incl. bedsits) classified as holiday homes.

There were 183,312 other vacant dwellings in April 2016, of which 140,120 were houses and 43,192 were apartments. The majority of houses were detached, accounting for 79,966 or 44 per cent of vacant dwellings.   

When examining the vacancy rates within each dwelling type, one in ten of all detached and terraced houses were recorded as being empty. However for semi-detached houses the vacancy rate dropped down to just over 5 per cent.

Among purpose-built apartments the percentage of vacant homes stood at 13.5 per cent. But the highest rates of vacancy were within flats in converted buildings where around 30 per cent were classified by the enumerators as vacant.

Apartments and flatsTerracedSemi-detachedDetached
Holiday home45725818659545163

Drop in vacant houses and apartments recorded in all counties

When compared with 2011, the number of vacant houses has fallen by 28,307 (17%) while the number of vacant apartments fell by 18,437 (30%). Map 4.1 and 4.2 show these changes at county level.

Figure 4.3 charts the combined number of vacant houses and apartments per 1,000 inhabitants at county level in 2011 and 2016.

Nationally there were 38 vacant homes per 1,000 people in April 2016, a fall from the corresponding figure of 50 recorded in 2011.

The lowest number of empty dwellings (excluding holiday homes) relative to population size was in South Dublin (13) followed by Fingal (17) and Kildare (20) while in Leitrim for every 1,000 people in that county there were 112 vacant homes. Longford recorded the largest fall dropping from 96 vacant per 1,000 population to 69 in 2016. 

Vacants per 1,000 population 2011Vacants per 1,000 population 2016
South Dublin19.701740163269912.5373519821213
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown31.494077891603421.0808281884982
Dublin City46.086897189601433.2230945949357
Cork City51.228717604629734.1564735748904
Galway City47.293092719352836.1137946814461
Cork County49.722112445660637.4990112916486
Galway County67.335145382700353.7711132170132

Interactive table: StatBank Link E1068

Vacancy rate lower in most towns

Of the 183,312 vacant houses and apartments 117,381 were located within the 873 settlements (cities, towns and villages) identified in Census 2016. Vacancy rates, which varied enormously across towns, fell in 682 settlements. In 2011, there were 112 towns in Ireland where there were over 25 per cent of dwellings vacant; this was down to 54 by 2016.

At individual town level, Blacklion (46.4%) in Cavan had the highest vacancy rate, excluding holiday homes in 2016 followed by Keshcarrigan (45.6%) in Leitrim and Kilgarvan (43.1%) in Kerry as shown in Table 4.2.

Table 4.2 - Top 7 highest vacancy rate in towns, 2016
TownCountyVacancy rate

Interactive table: StatBank Link E1069

Tulsk in Roscommon, which had the highest number of vacant homes in percentage terms in 2011 at 51 per cent, had a vacancy rate of 18.5 per cent according to the last census.

Among the urban towns (i.e. towns with a population of 1,500 or more) the highest vacancy rates were recorded in Ballaghaderreen (33.1%) and Castlerea (27.7%) in County Roscommon, along with Bundoran (29.9%) in County Donegal.

When the larger settlements with a population in excess of 10,000 are examined Letterkenny (14.9 %), Longford (14.6 %) and Ballina (14.3 %) ranked highest in terms of vacancy.

The vacancy rates of all settlements can be viewed in map 4.3:

Map 4.3 Vacancy rates (excluding holiday homes) by settlement, 2016

View Map


Over 10,000 vacant dwellings within 1 Km of their nearest town

There were a total of 65,931 vacant houses and apartments (excluding holiday homes) that were not located within the 873 census settlements, representing 36 per cent of the total vacant stock.

When analysing these by straight line distance to the nearest town or village, the majority (41,703) fell between a 1 and 5 km radius from the nearest settlement. There were 4,780 empty homes within a 500 metre radius, while a further 5,685 were within a distance range of between 500 metres and 1 Km.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were 1,494 remote vacant dwellings 10 Km or more from their nearest town or village.

10 Km or more5-10 Km1-5 Km500 metres - 1 KmLess than 500 metres

Large increase in holiday homes in Dublin City

The number of holiday homes continued to rise and reached 62,148 dwellings in 2016, up by almost 5 per cent on the 2011 figure of 59,395.

In Dublin City alone, there were 700 extra dwellings used for seasonal purposes (322 to 1,022) when compared with 2011, representing a 217 per cent rise. Figure 4.5 shows the Electoral Divisions in Dublin City with the highest number of holiday homes.

Other counties which recorded strong growth rates include Galway City (77.6%), Monaghan (46.7%), Kilkenny (37.4 %) and Louth (23%).

With 11,288 dwellings, Donegal occupied first place in homes used for recreation or leisure, followed by Kerry (8,056), Cork County (7,202), Wexford (6,629) and Mayo (4,855).

Number of holiday homes
Royal Exchange A172
South Dock151
North City116
Pembroke East E44
Royal Exchange B40
Arran Quay C31

Interactive table: StatBank Link E1002

Over 100,000 vacant dwellings in 2011 were occupied five years later

In Census 2011, there were 230,056 vacant houses and apartments found by the enumerators.

Due to changes in the fieldwork which were adopted for both the 2011 and 2016 censuses, a direct comparison at individual dwelling level is possible for 188,390 (81.9%) of these units. The remaining vacant dwellings in 2011 have either fallen outside the housing stock in 2016 (i.e. categorised by Census 2016 enumerators as Derelict, Commercial Only, Under Construction or as not existing) or a direct comparison was not possible.

Census 2016 results show that 65,039 dwellings were recorded as vacant in both censuses, while 105,384 which were vacant in 2011 were occupied in 2016. 

Not surprisingly the greatest turnover in 2011 vacant dwellings occurred in city and suburban areas where over 60% of dwellings changed from vacant to occupied across the counties of Fingal, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin and Cork City.

In the counties of Mayo and Roscommon over 40% of vacant dwellings had the same status in 2011 and 2016.

Map 4.5 highlights the percentage of vacant dwellings in 2011 that were occupied in 2016 at Electoral Division level.

Galway county26.73538.3
Cork county25.629.445
Galway city2419.256.8
Dublin City25.615.359.1
South Dublin29.19.961
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown25.713.261.1
Cork city19.619.361.1

Map 4.5 Percentage of dwellings that were vacant in 2011 and occupied in 2016 by electoral division

View Map


Vacant in 2011 but occupied in 2016: Household characteristics

Of the 105,384 dwellings which had changed dwelling status from vacant to occupied between 2011 and 2016, more than half (55,697) were in rented accommodation in 2016. A further 22,295 (21.2%) households had a mortgage while 18,391 (17.5%) owned their home outright.

In the urban centres of Dublin, Cork and Galway around 70 per cent of the dwellings that were vacant in 2011, but occupied in 2016, were rented.

Examining the household composition, couples (including children) were living in 45 per cent of these dwellings followed by one person households (28.7%), one parent households (10.8%) and unrelated person households (6.8%).

Owned with loan or mortgage22.38
Owned outright18.46
Rent free3.26

Vacant in 2016 but occupied in 2011: Household characteristics

Conversely, of the 183,312 vacant homes in 2016, a total of 82,437 (45%) were occupied in 2011.

When the age of the householder of these dwellings is analysed, one in six were aged 80 years or over, while in 20 per cent of cases, the householder's age ranged between 60 and 79 years of age.

The tenure status in 2011 of these particular homes was as follows: Rented (43%); Owned outright (35%); and Owned with loan or mortgage (15%).

Supplementary Analysis - Reasons why dwelling are vacant

During the course of their work the census enumerators were instructed to speak with neighbours to determine/verify the status of vacant dwellings. They used their record books to keep notes on the occupancy status of a dwelling (see image clip below) or to record why a dwelling might be vacant - such as a 'For Sale' sign in the garden, the owner was in a nursing home, the property was for rent etc. As these notes were for the enumerators' own use and did not form part of the enumeration process they are of mixed quality, but nonetheless they provide some useful additional information on vacant dwellings in Ireland. Accordingly the CSO, as part of a supplementary exercise, and on an experimental basis, captured and summarised this information during the processing of the Enumerator Record Books.

Of the total 183,312 vacant properties ‘reasons for vacancy data’ was captured and summarised for 57,246 properties; the remaining 126,066 notes panels were either blank (124,595) or failed to provide information that could be readily summarised.

The information is summarised in Table 4.3. Based on the 57,246 captured responses the most common reason a dwelling was vacant, as recorded by enumerators, was For Sale with 10,948 dwellings. This was followed by Rental (10,350), and Vacant Long Term (with no further information noted) (10,056). Other notable reasons were In Nursing Home (4,165), Renovation (3,678) and New Build (2,180).

Table 4.3 Reasons for vacant, supplementary analysis, 2016
TotalDublin city & suburbsOther citiesLarge townsSmall townsRuralTotal
For Sale2,6821,0301,9591,7053,57210,948
Vacant Long Term1,2657311,3711,3345,35510,056
Rental Property3,7579621,6391,3502,64210,350
Nursing Home8654096254281,8384,165
New Build257842593051,2752,180
Boarded up - habitable2843162982673791,544
With Relatives103569684508847
Other personal use8549107108530879
Abandoned farm house4344368383
Other 15,9409,42717,23420,38863,077126,066
New BuildRenovationIn Nursing HomeRental PropertyVacant Long TermDeceasedFor Sale
Small towns305488428135013348971705
Large towns259556625163913719131959
Other cities843614099627316141030
Dublin city and suburbs2579658653757126513552682

The data is presented by geographical type in Figure 4.8 above. In Dublin City and suburbs the most common reason was 'Rental' with 3,757 dwellings, while in rural areas the most common reasons were 'Deceased' (5,414) and 'Vacant Long Term' (5,355).

Table 4.4 presents the data by Type of Dwelling. For detached houses the most common reason was 'Deceased' (5,531), followed by 'Vacant Long Term' (5,079).

For semi-detached and terraced dwellings the top reason was 'For Sale', while for purpose-built apartments the top reason was 'Rental' (3,521).

Table 4.4 Reasons for vacant, by type of dwelling, 2016
 DetachedSemi - detachedTerracedApartment purpose builtApartment convertedTotal
For Sale4,0982,6182,6211,09751410,948
Rental Property2,2331,2951,3923,5211,90910,350
Vacant Long Term5,0791,5511,8311,13246310,056
Nursing Home2,0618461,080142364,165
New Build1,196401332231202,180
Boarded up but habitable389281640148861,544
Other personal use4079185192104879
With Relatives4771421525026847
Abandoned farm house3691661383
Other 55,24018,00620,75121,86910,201126,066
Total 79,96627,83532,31929,39513,798183,312
New buildRenovationNursing homeDeceasedVacant Long TermRental PropertyFor Sale
Apartment converted20246361324631909514
Apartment purpose built231465142277113235211097



Image clip from Enumerators Record Book 

Census 2016 Profile 1 - Housing in Ireland Image clip from Enumerators Record Book (dummy data).

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