Thursday, 02 November 2023.

Our second Home Truths paper, Vacant Homes in Cork analyses Census 2022 to explore the issue of vacant homes - particularly long-term vacancy, in Cork.

High and ever-increasing rents and chronically low supply are hallmarks of Ireland’s private rented sector. They are a key aspect of Ireland's housing crisis.

In Census 2022, as with other Census years, enumerators counted vacant homes across Cork city and County. But for the first time enumerators were also required to identify a potential reason for why a home was vacant. The results show that of the 17,000 vacant homes across Cork, approximately one in five - or almost 3,000, are vacant rental properties. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) enumerators identified these vacant homes as rental properties by reviewing rental websites, including those for short-term lets, and through local enquiries.

2,954 vacant rental properties across Cork on Census night 2022.

While some of these vacant rental properties may be between lets, it turns out there is a significant discrepancy between the number of vacant rental properties, as per Census 2022, and the number of rental properties advertised on the property website Census 2022, conducted around April 2022, identified 2,954 vacant rental homes in Cork; reported only 211 homes available to rent across all of Munster on their website on 01 February 2022, falling to just 131 homes on 01 May 2022. is not the only advertising option for rental properties and not all homes available for rent are advertised. But these figures none-the-less indicate, in the midst of a housing crisis, a large discrepancy between the number of vacant and available rental homes. Short-term lets may account for some of the difference, as they may do in Dublin. There may be other factors.

641 long-term vacant rental homes across Cork on Census night 2022.

Further analysis of Census 2022 also shows how long some of these rental properties have been vacant. For the first time, following Census 2022, the CSO reported on long-term vacancy by comparing vacancy statistics from 2022 with those from Census 2016 and Census 2011. Among the almost 3,000 vacant rental properties across Cork on Census night 2022, more than one in five, or almost 650, are vacant at least seven years, since 2016. Going by the Department of Housing’s latest figures (September 2023), which reported 536 adults in emergency accommodation in Cork, there are more long-term vacant rental properties in Cork than there are adults in homeless emergency accommodation.

This is particularly stark when we know from our first Home Truths paper, Single Homelessness in the Southwest, that single adults represent the majority of adults in emergency accommodation in the Southwest and are especially reliant on the precarious, competitive and very limited private rented sector for a speedy exit from homelessness. But lack of supply and high rents mean they’re virtually locked out of that market, forced to remain stuck in emergency accommodation long-term.

Why so many vacant rental homes?

While we certainly need more social and affordable housing, we also need a much greater supply of private rented housing. We need routes out of homelessness for people stuck there far too long and we need to stem the number of people being pushed into homelessness.

To get there, we need in part a greater understanding about that discrepancy between the number of vacant and available rental properties, and insights into why one in five vacant rental properties have remained unoccupied since 2016. Armed with those insights, we can then create targeted incentives to return vacant rental homes to the private rented market. A small but efficient and much-needed part of the solution to the housing crisis.

Our Home Truths series aims to offer insights into different aspects and experiences of homelessness in the Southwest, drawing on publicly available data and supported by the personal experiences of Cork Simon service users.