Phase 1: 1991-2003 (The Celtic Tiger years)

Housing in Dublin, and Ireland more generally, is a significant issue and a live political debate. This data story examines housing in the capital through the housing and planning data available for the city. There are two things to keep in mind in terms of understanding housing:

First, it is a complex issue that involves a number of factors and outcomes including housing supply and demand (including homelessness), existing stock and type (social/private/rental, vacancy), house and rental prices, mortgage arrears and negative equity, access to land, access to credit, planning permissions, homelessness, unfinished estates, land supply and price.

Second, making sense of the present situation requires placing it in historical context. It is possible to make the case that housing in Ireland has been in crisis since the early 1990s and the start of the Celtic Tiger. Consequently, we have structured this data story into three parts corresponding to the three phases of the crisis:

Housing in the Dublin Region, 1991 to Present: Phase 1: 1991-2003 (The Celtic Tiger years)

Population and households surged from 1991 - 2006, increasing housing demand

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Between April 1991 and April 2006, the population of Ireland increased by 704,129, an increase of 20%. The number of households increased by 440,437, which is a 43% rise.

In Dublin and its surrounding counties, population and households increased more dramatically, with households almost doubling in Fingal and Kildare and Meath Counties.


Dublin area housing type diversity also increased

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Growth in population and households meant strong demand for housing and a need to produce a more diversified housing stock that would cater for households of various types and sizes.

Housing unit completions outnumbered new households

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Between January 1991 and December 2006, 762,631 housing units were completed in Ireland, peaking with 93,419 units being built in 2006 alone. Between 1994 and 2006, 154,803 housing units were built in the four Dublin authorities and 84,688 three surrounding counties.

More units were being built nationally than there were households being formed, especially in the period 2002-2006 (296,000 units built vs 181,563 households1)

New and second-hand home prices rose dramatically

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Despite housing completions running ahead of household growth, house prices grew dramatically. The average new house price rose from €78,715 in Dublin and €66,914 for the country as a whole in 1991, to €416,225 in Dublin (a 429% increase) and €322,634 for the country as a whole (a 382% increase) in 2007. Secondhand homes followed the same trend, with homes in Dublin rising by 551% and 489% outside the capital.

Cost versus wage discrepancy increased mortgage debt

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Wages, however, did not increase at the same rate. In 1995, the average secondhand house price was 4.1 times the average industrial wage. But 2007, house prices were 11.9 times the average industrial wage.2

The rapid rise in prices meant that the total value of household mortgage debt increased dramatically, from €47.2 billion in 2002 to over €139.8 billion at the end of 2007, with the average size of a new mortgage (€266,000) nearly double the 2002 figure.3

Investment in new social housing decreased

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State investment in social housing was waning whilst demand was growing, with a turn to the private sector to provide accommodation through a rent supplement scheme. Between 1994 and 2007 47,769 social housing units were built in Ireland, plus between 1999 and 2007 9,378 were acquired through purchase and 1,201 long-term leases acquired through the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS). At the same time 22,633 local authority units were sold to tenants (many of these funded by mortgages provided by local authorities, a large proportion of which are now in arrears).

Some social housing built during the 1950s was coming to the end of its life needing either substantial refurbishment or replacement.

High prices led to more renting, less social housing

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As property prices grew and social house building waned, the nature of housing tenure started to change with a relative shrinking of owner-occupers and social housing, and a corresponding growth in privately rented accommodation.

Urban prices drove sprawl and long-distance commuting

Given the cost of housing, households who wished to buy a home but who had limited resources were forced to either buy property that did not suit their future needs with the aim of trading up later, borrowing beyond their means, or buying in an area further away and commuting. The latter lead to extensive urban sprawl and the growth of smaller towns around the principle cities and towns.

Click on the map to see the numbers of workers in each electoral division (ED) commuting to work in Dublin city.

Read more

Read part 2 of this 3-part data story, documenting the second phase of Ireland's housing crisis:

Phase 2 - 2007-2012 (the crash)


This extended data story is an updated and modified version of:

Kitchin, R., Hearne, R. and O’Callaghan, C. (2016) Housing.

In Roche, W.K., O’Connell, P. and Prothero, A. (eds) Austerity and Recovery in Ireland: Europe’s Poster Child and the Great Recession.

Oxford University Press. pp. 272-289.


1 Household data is taken from the Census, which runs April 2002 – April 2006). Completions data has been estimated based on two thirds of 2002 and one third 2006 to approximate April dates.

2 Brawn, D. 2009. Ireland’s House Party: What Estates Agents Don’t Want You to Know Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.

3 Central Statistics Office, CSO. 2008. Construction and Housing in Ireland. Available at: www.cso.ie