Lies, Damned Lies, and Housing Completion Statistics


Given the level of interest that the Housing Completion Statistics have stimulated in the wider media I think it’s worth starting a thread on it.

Housebuilding figures are inflated, TDs told, -

And now they’re writing about it in The Village magazine!


Given that we need 45-50’000 houses per year for the next five years it is clear that our Housing industry can not gear up to the challenge.

This Housing Crisis is only getting started.


So whats the solution?


And not one of these so called experts has suggested an alternative measure to current one of counting housing completions


The essence of a “crisis” is that it demands short term solutions as well as long term solutions. The Governmental approach to the housing crisis is another example of the Civil Service and the State treating everything as a problem to be solved in the long run rather than the short term.

Long term solutions are of course cheaper in the short term. The problem with failing to deliver short term solutions is that there is often a huge long term cost arising from the damage that was allowed to fester. **What people do not realise is that FG’s insistence on only looking for medium to long term solutions arise from their focus on the short term. They want to put off spending the money until later so that they can pay for other things (which might shore up their support) now. They don’t want to reduce the pot they have for the next two years.
We have had a number of severe crises arising after the international financial crash which have been dealt with in this way, and which we will pay hugely for in the long term. Three stand out:

  1. Unemployment - we could have had state sponsored work and study to give people facing unexpected unemployment a leg up for the future and a sense of self worth. All studies show that the long term costs of leaving people out of work are huge and are lasting.

  2. Insolvency - our insolvency laws were reformed slowly, and when reformed it was still far slower to get out of insolvency than other countries. Only at the very end of the last Government in the face of an election was this appalling policy corrected.

  3. Housing - Years into a housing crisis very few radical solutions have been proposed. All the debate is about supply being increased. That is valid but again it is a focus on the long term not the short term. The focus is still on tinkering with the market with tax rebates and rent caps. These may well be beneficial in the long run, but it is not enough. In the meantime, local authorities are being told by Enda Kenny to ‘get on with it’. A bit like “Brexit means Brexit”, it shows the Government do not know how to deliver social housing. Meanwhile, the future social, economic and health costs are mounting higher and higher.

The FG party needs to be called out for what it is - timid, inept, lacking any vision and focussed only on the short term. In the long runs we will all pay dearly for FG’s reluctance to take decisive action. Their talk about the long term conceals a poisonous short-termism.


The answer is obvious. Differentiate new builds in the new building control management system and aggregate data. The certificates of compliance on completion required under the new Building Control Regulations will tell you when new units are completed if the data is requested and included in the register (database). One would hope this is already happening. Perhaps another poster might know?

The issue behind the articles is not how stupid the Government are at getting the data. The issue is that the Government has happily persisted with patently false and unreliable data which inflate the numbers rather than investing in getting proper data. If the Government really wanted to solve the crisis they would insist on proper data.


Alternative facts from the Indo. It’s amazing that Kevin Doyle (Political editor) is so ‘on message’ that he can’t even qualify the government’s claim.

Home building at highest levels since 2009, - Indo


Tom Healy of the Nevin Economic Research Institute have caught up with the story and he got a bit of a surprise…

Housing statistics - some challenges

Shame that Mr Healy has gotten himself bogged down in focusing on the issue with the fake statistics instead of considering how this throws all the housing projections out the window, and indeed the range of economic decisions that are based on them.


There is house building data available from a number of sources:

• New connections by ESB Networks which reflect both newly built residential units and derelict/abandoned/previously not completed units that are connected to the electricity network

• Commencement notes which are logged in the BCMS (Building Control Management System) – see … ity-starts.

• Planning permissions

These data streams are not date-aligned. A residential property may be given planning permission. It may or may not start being built, in which case a commencement notice will be issued. The building might subsequently stop or be suspended. If the buildings are completed at some time in the future, those completed residential buildings will be connected to the electricity network.

In the interim, existing buildings will be demolished.

The source BCMS data is in PDF form and I really do not feel like saving it to a text file and parsing it to extract the sequence of commencement notices and their revisions to build an accurate view of residential property building.

Commencement notice data should be the most usable. However, I cannot comment on the level of compliance with supplying information, its accuracy and its quality.

The Department of the Environment will have access to this source data.

The time series are also not date-aligned. The CSO property data is from April of the census year. The other series are based on year-end values.

Not all series are complete. Planning permission data is available up to Q3 2016.

In summary, the data from the various series is:

Year                CSO      Dept Env   New ESB Registrations    Commencement Notices Planning Permissions
2016           2,022,895                                                         4,844              12,046
2015                         2,022,000                  12,666                   3,580              13,044
2014                         2,014,000                  11,016                   1,269               7,411
2013                         2,007,000                   8,301                   4,708               7,199
2012                         2,003,000                   8,488                   4,042               6,250
2011           1,994,845     1,999,000                  10,480                   4,365              11,645
2010                         1,992,000                  14,602                   6,391              18,478
2009                         1,982,000                  26,420                   8,599              40,556
2008                         1,960,000                  51,724                  22,852              67,584
2007                         1,912,000                  78,027                  48,876              84,397
2006           1,769,613     1,838,000                  93,419                  75,602              78,755
2005                         1,733,000                                          77,709              99,352
2004                                                                            77,691             101,653

If you take the data from 2006 to 2015, you get the following:

• The CSO counted a net additional 253,282 residential properties from April 2006 to April 2016. That is an average of 25,000 a year.

• The Department of the Environment counted a net 289,000 additional residential properties from end of December 2005 to the end of December 2016.

• There were 315,143 new residential connections to the ESB network from 2006 to 2015.

• There were 180,284 residential commencement notices from 2006 to 2015.

• There were 335,319 residential units for which planning permissions were granted from 2006 to 2015.

The commencement notice numbers are very low relative to the number of new electricity network registrations. If this data is anyway accurate then residential property building is currently at less than 5,000 a year.

The residential supply pipeline should be able to be represented along the following lines:

This is a continuous process.

Information of residential property availability can be matched with current and future residential property needs.

Eurostat publish statistics on household sizes: … statistics … _2016.xlsx

They say the average Irish household size is currently 2.7.

The CSO 216 census population and housing data is:

                 CSO Population Residential Unit   Vacant Units       Net Units People Per Unit
State                  4,757,976       2,022,895         259,562       1,763,333            2.70
Dublin                 1,345,402         534,652          36,732         497,920            2.70
Dublin City              553,165         242,397          21,781         220,616            2.51

So, in theory, housing supply and demand are in a precarious balance.

However, this data, both population size and housing, may not be accurate.

I previously posted my view of a plan for housing problems:

including the need for accurate information to allow effective decision-making:

What is so obvious is that the Department responsible for housing policy and collecting information on house building has not got a clue despite all its resources. Its Minister is manifestly disengaged and incompetent.



The best source for completed houses should be the “Certificate of Compliance on Completion” required by the 2014 Building Regulations which must be filed with the building control management system in respect of units where the commencement notice was lodged after 1 March 2014. This would require the Certifier to verify the number of new residential units being certified when lodging the cert or else for the person processing the cert to extract this information. I suspect that this is not happening as it was a hastily designed system and the IT back end seems particularly poor. However, it should be possible to get it in order as it is a national data set operated centrally.

Both Commencement Notices and Certificates of Compliance on Completion can refer to more than one unit. Therefore, the number of Commencement Notices /Cert of Compliance should be substantially less than the number of units completed.

Perhaps another poster might be able to tell us if the Dept of Housing has got its sh1t together and is now looking for this data when certs of compliance are lodged.

Another possible source of information is stamp duty. New residential do not have an LPT identifier. Also, the stamp return requires people to state how many residential units it refers to if it is more than one residential unit. Therefore, a quick database search of the number of residential units sold for value of greater than €10,000 without any LPT identifier associated with the transaction should give the answer of the number of new units sold.


Figures out today reveal that 8,500 houses were added to the housing stock over the last FIVE years. Certainly makes Minister Coveney’s claims of 15,000 completions last year look like complete and utter bullshit.

Minister Coveney on the radio at the moment claiming credit for Fine Gael policies that only one housing estate has been built in Galway and Mayo in the last six years.


Did you not realise, the majority of Simple Simon’s 2016 completions were finalised in the second half of 2016 i.e. after the census?

Next year if Enda is still Taoiseach, I expect a change of methodology along it an usually increase in dilapidated properties :slight_smile:


Permanent Housing Units by Occupancy Status and Vacancy Rate 2011 to
2016 by County and City, Aggregate Town or Rural Area, Statistical
Indicator and Census Year
 	2011	2016
A Total housing stock ( B+C+D+E+F+G ) (Number)	1,994,845	2,003,645
B Occupied by usual resident(s) of the household (Number)	1,649,408	1,697,665
C Occupied by visitors only (Number)	10,703	9,788
D Unoccupied - residents temporarily absent (Number)	45,283	50,732
E Unoccupied - vacant house (Number)	168,427	140,120
F Unoccupied - vacant flat (Number)	61,629	43,192
G Unoccupied - vacant holiday home (Number)	59,395	62,148
Vacancy rate ( (E+F+G) / A ) (%)	14.5	12.3


Not 15,000: 7500
We’ve duped ourselves about how much housing we build: here’s how
, - Village Magazine (updated)


Just looking at the PPR can give you an idea of the number of houses that were completed and that people wanted to buy -

2015 - 6041
2016 - 6649
2017 (so far) - 7369

These don’t include social housing and probably a minority of other things (self builds etc) but the figures look much more like they would beef up to 7500 for 2016 than 15000

This year is running ahead of last year and I was looking at Dublin figures last week - there were just under 3000 new sales in Dublin last year - looks like there will be 1000 more this year.

This tallies with what a retired EA told me at the end of the summer - he said the company he used to work for has sold more new builds in Dublin than ever before. He also said that he felt builders were over-pricing new builds. Apparently they have a sneaky strategy - say they have a small development of half-a-dozen houses - they set a suitably high price and mark one as sale agreed - this is supposed to increases demand on the others - he doubted that it was working. I have noticed a lot of new builds round SCD that have sat on the market for a while.


The assumption about self-builds seems low.

Since 2015 there have been about 1000 planning permissions per quarter granted for one offs according to the CSO.

Granted not all will be built but it should still get you at least 3,000 per year.


House completions are proxied off ESB connections since 2013 and are notified monthly by the ESB to the Dep of Environment aka Housing.

Completions were based on council data before that, which was crap especially for one offs.

Census 2011 found over 40,000 inhabitable properties during the fieldwork that were not officially known to be complete by any other metric.

Census 2016 found thousands of one offs, the Ordnance Survey has not even mapped them yet and they have no eircodes, most of them,


Missing the Target, - Rory Hearne

Loads more! Worth reading.


CSO develops new measure of housebuilding activity … -1.3523058


New Dwelling Completions Q1 2018

New quarterly CSO release out today … onsq12018/

Infographic … fographic/

Press release … mpletions/

I’ll post a table later