Construction of new homes reaches seven-year high

Housebuilding gets off to a strong start in 2017...

The construction of new homes has hit its highest level since 2010, according to new figures from the Department of Housing.

Some 1,244 units were completed around Ireland in January, a 35% year-on-year increase.

It brings the number of finished units to 15,256 in the year to the end of January, hitting heights not seen since the start of the decade.

As the data is based on electricity connections, its accuracy is open to debate – ESB meter connection data may overcount new builds.

However, Goodbody Stockbrokers points out that the figures are in keeping with general trends elsewhere.

Goodbody's chief economist Dermot O'Leary told The Irish Times:

"While question marks remain around the exact number of house completions in Ireland, the conclusions are the same no matter which dataset is used.

"The Irish housebuilding industry is in a strong recovery phase that has a number of years to go to catch up with underlying demand."

New construction work also opened 2017 strongly, with Department data showing that 910 units got underway in January, marking a 45% year-on-year increase.

There were 13,334 commencement notices submitted for the 12 months to January – a 44% year-on-year increase.

Multi-unit developments represent 69% of all commencements, a 69% jump on 2015.

Some 60% of commencements occurred in the greater Dublin region.

Despite the increased activity, a solution to the Irish housing crisis still appears to be a long way off.

Other Department of Housing figures have revealed that there were over 2,500 children homeless in December and more than 7,000 overall without secure accommodation that month.

The European Parliament is reviewing the homelessness situation across Europe this week and will hear today how Ireland has the fastest rate of families becoming homeless within the EU.

Focus Ireland's Mike Allen, one of the delegates due to speak in Brussels, said:

"One of the things that is holding us back from being able to properly invest in social housing – to get local authorities to build the housing rather than depending on private developers – is the European rules about levels of government debt and so on."