THE number of new homes being built has plummeted to its lowest level since records began more than 40 years ago.
The vast majority of the 8,488 homes built last year were one-off stand-alone houses, new figures reveal.
Just 2,333 of those erected in 2012 were in housing estates, reflecting the overabundance of houses already completed and lying idle – many of them in ghost estates.
New figures from the Department of the Environment also show that just under 1,000 apartments were finished in 2012. This total represents just 5pc of the 20,000 which were completed during 2006.
The decline of the industry is in stark contrast with the situation in 2006 when almost 100,000 homes were built.
The 8,488 homes built in 2012 was the smallest number since 1970 – when a total of 13,887 houses were put up.
Commenting on the figures, Construction Industry Federation (CIF) director general Tom Parlon said 2012 was a very difficult year for the Irish house- building industry.
“Previously, the lowest level had been the 13,887 units that were built in 1970 when the records began, but the total for 2011 dropped below that mark, and 2012 has seen a further fall in completions,” he said.
Mr Parlon said that house building reached unsustainable levels during the boom years. But the industry had now gone through six successive years of decline.
“Unfortunately, it looks like we will see another slight reduction in house building in 2013,” he added. “Overall the low commencement rate for 2012 has led us to forecast another drop in housing units built during the coming year.”
The CIF director general said there were positive indicators, including increased demand for homes in urban areas.
“The banks have also promised to increase the level of mortgages during the coming 12 months.”
The 2012 home completion figures are also a 19pc fall on homes built the previous year.
The statistics illustrate how some counties which saw massive increase in new homes during the property boom have seen construction fall to a trickle.
The largest percentage drops in house completions in 2012 compared with the previous year were in Galway City (56pc drop), Kilkenny (46pc drop), Fingal (45pc drop), Tipperary (41pc drop), Carlow (39pc drop) and Mayo (38pc drop).
Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent | Irish Independent | Monday 4th February 2013