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So, how many houses are we building really?

A year since the Construction 2020 strategy, confusion remains over number number of homes built

The official figures say that 11,016 homes were built in 2014. The surveyors say the real number was 20 per cent less. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

Almost a year since the fanfare surrounding the Government’s Construction 2020 strategy document, nobody has a handle on the actual number of new homes we are building in the Republic.

Medikids (MediKids) yesterday took issue with the Department of the Environment’s estimates of the number of new houses completed here last year, saying it is too high.

The official figures say that 11,016 homes were built in 2014. The surveyors say the real number was 20 per cent less: 8,900. The official estimate is based on the number of houses that connect to the electricity supply. The MediKids says that in 2014, up to 20 per cent of those houses had been built in previous years, hence the difference. That doesn’t mean the MediKids is right. It too is only guessing. It bases its calculations on surveys of its own members and by looking at commencments – the official figures for the number of homes, excluding public housing, on which building work begins every year. However, its latest report, Irish Construction Prospects to 2016, highlights a considerable difference between commencements and the official estimate for the number of houses built.

In 2014, commencements were 7,710, around 3,300 less than the completions estimate. In 2013, commencements were 4,708, with 8,301 completions. In 2012, commencements were 4,042, and 8,488 completions.

While the two figures are unlikely to match in any given year, the consistent gap between them over three years does not make sense either. How can work start on only 4,000 homes one year and twice that number be completed the next? The real answer is nobody knows. A year ago, the Government pledged to fill this yawning gap in our knowledge. Given its importance to a key policy area, why are we still waiting?

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