Co Leitrim has come in for a lot of criticism in recent months for the number of ghost estates throughout the county, and the latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office have certainly added fuel to the fire.
According to the Census 2011 figures released late last week, Co Leitrim has the highest number of vacant houses in the country, with some 30 percent of homes unoccupied at the time of the Census.
Co Donegal has the second highest vacancy rate in the country with 29 percent of dwellings unoccupied while South Dublin registered the lowest vacancy rate in the country at just five percent.
Of course this rate will have to be adjusted to take into account holiday homes in the county but there are concerns that the final figure for unoccupied homes could be as high as the 23 or 24 percent.
Cllr Gordon Hughes has questioned just what criteria was used to evaluate the number of unoccupied homes in the county.
“Using my local town, Ballinamore, for example,” he said, “we would only have vacancy rates of between five and 10 percent and the majority of that is apartment stock.”
Cllr Hughes, who also works as an auctioneer, said that in his local area there was actually a situation where demand for detached housing was actually outstripping supply.
He said the publication of figures such as the Census 2011 data without a proper breakdown on location, correlation or whether it is a family home or a holiday home, was “alarmist” and “gave an inaccurate picture of the real situation on the ground in Co Leitrim”.
“When you figure in the amount of holiday homes the final figure will be very different,” he maintained. “It is not the case that we are simply a county full of ghost estates and it would wrong to assume that,” he said.
However Rob Kitchin from the website www.irelandafternama.wordpress.com published a post last Friday stating that the figures for Co Leitrim and the rest of Ireland had proven that the “much quoted figure in the media of 300,000 vacant units (in Ireland) ..has... been proven roughly right”.
Mr Kitchin said that the real issue isn’t the amount of vacant dwellings however, but rather the oversupply of homes.
He said that the actual number of holiday homes would have to be known before economists would be able to calculate how large an oversupply of homes there were in Ireland.
Although the figures for holiday homes have not yet been released he said that the lively oversupply nationally will in the region of 80-100,000 homes.
“Once we have the holiday home figures we’ll be able to calculate a geography of oversupply, but it is clear from these figures that there is a pronounced pattern of vacancy,” he said.