Subscriber OnlyResidential

House building in Ireland is at a 15-year high. This is true but it is also Government spin

Although Government certainly isn’t lying when it says 32,695 new homes completed in 2023 represents largest annual delivery in 15 years, it shouldn’t try to insult people’s intelligence

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” As lines go, it’s one that’s been attributed over time to American writer Mark Twain and British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli among others. Given its essential truth, it’s unsurprising that the saying continues to be employed to this day whenever someone is suspected of playing fast and loose with the facts to suit their own agenda.

Although the Government certainly isn’t lying when it says that the 32,695 new homes completed in 2023 represents the largest annual delivery in 15 years, it shouldn’t try to insult people’s intelligence.

Rather, its representatives should have the decency to put the statistics into an appropriate context by acknowledging that the level of homebuilding dropped off a cliff after 2008 and has remained in the doldrums ever since. This despite the fact that our population grew 8.1 per cent to 5,149,139 in the six years leading up to 2022, having already swollen by 3.8 per cent in the period between the previous censuses of 2011 and 2016.

To put it another way, the Government’s claim of a 15-year high for housing delivery means little or nothing when the supply for the 14 years that preceded it fell hopelessly short of the corresponding requirement.


Similarly, the Government’s statements in its most recent Housing for All update that the pipeline of new-home commencements in 2023 was up 22 per cent on 2022, and that last year’s new-home completions exceeded the Housing for all target of 29,000 by almost 13 per cent, are equally redundant.

A cursory reading of the analysis provided to The Irish Times for today’s new-homes supplement by those directly involved in the construction and the sale of new homes points to the inconvenient truth that when it comes to the thorny issue of housing delivery, the Government has set the bar way too low.

The sheer extent of the gaping chasm between the current Coalition’s ambition and the required reality is highlighted both by Ivan Gaine, managing director of Sherry FitzGerald New Homes and chairman of Property Industry Ireland, and by Knight Frank’s director of New Homes Ray Palmer-Smith. Gaine believes that supply targets need to be set closer to 60,000 new homes per year while Palmer-Smith, for his part, plumps for the more conservative 50,000 units agreed upon by various commentators – including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

It’s important to set the target for the delivery of new homes at the right level but the land to accommodate them must be there. As it stands, this isn’t necessarily the case, according to developer Michael O’Flynn. He points to dezoning of land that has taken place on foot of the outdated data contained in the National Planning Framework. “Any serious attempt to address our housing deficit must include zoning and servicing sufficient land which is available for development,” says O’Flynn.

Also key to meeting the country’s housing targets is the issue of funding. While this is an area where the State can have a significant impact through financial and other supports, its resources are limited by its commitment to other areas of the economy.

Given that constraint, the Government of the day must ensure that the conditions are in place for State to attract additional funding from institutional investors to ensure that new homes are being built in sufficient numbers. Those conditions include a properly resourced planning system and a stable and competitive policy regime, according to Pat Farrell, chief executive of Irish Institutional Property, which represents numerous of the country’s foremost developers and real-estate investors.

Having said all of the above, there are still some bright spots to be found when it comes to the availability of new homes. The details of a wide selection of the latest schemes in Dublin and elsewhere are featured in today’s supplement.