Age of first-time buyers rises as housing supply fails to increase

The average age at which people buy their first home has rocketed to 35, with thousands of families trapped in unsuitable accommodation.

A report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows the age at which most people own their home has increased by seven years since 2006, with renting the most common form of housing tenure in major built-up areas.

The ‘Housing in Ireland’ report, which forms part of Census 2016, paints a worrying picture of a housing market ridden with overcrowding, a lack of building activity, and soaring rents.

Tens of thousands of families are living in unsuitable accommodation with more people than rooms.

It also details a chronic shortage of supply, saying the number of extra dwellings added to the national housing stock rose by just 8,800 – a paltry 0.4pc – since 2011.

In the same period, the population grew by almost 4pc to 4,761,865.
By comparison, during the previous five years the number of homes added to the national stock had increased by 225,232 units, or 12.7pc.

Separate CSO figures showed house prices rising 11pc in a year, fuelling calls for the Government to suspend the Help-to-Buy scheme amid concerns it is leading to higher prices.

The CSO says that the average age at which people buy is rising. This is due to the lack of new homes coming on stream, rising prices, and stringent mortgage rules.

“The age at which home ownership became the majority tenure category was 35 years in 2016,” the CSO said. “Prior to that age, more householders were renting rather than owning their home.

“In comparison with previous censuses dating back to 1991, the ages which marked the changeover between renting and home ownership were 32 years (2011), 28 years (2006), 27 years (2002) and 26 years (1991).

“The milestone at which two-thirds of households owned their own homes, with or without a loan, occurred at 41 in 2016. In 1991, the equivalent age for that particular milestone occurred at 28.”

This has resulted in home ownership rates falling to their lowest levels since 1971. Today, 67.6pc of people own their homes, with or without a mortgage, a fall of 2.1pc in the last five years.

Worryingly, the lack of new homes coming onto the market has also resulted in overcrowding. Average household size has increased for the first time since 1966 with 2.75 people per dwelling, up from 2.73 in 2011.

The CSO also said that 95,000 households – including some 65,000 families with children – are living in dwellings with more people than rooms.
One-in-four of these 65,000 families is homeowners, with many likely trapped in negative equity and unable to move to more suitable accommodation.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said an increase in overcrowding pointed to a return to tenement living for some.

Simon Community spokesperson Niamh Randall said: “We think it’s painting a picture of people with no choice but to share overcrowded accommodation. We’re hearing that people have limited choices and are doubling up. You have two families sharing spaces, and moving in with family for a temporary period, which is extended and extended again.”

There was a sharp fall in the number of vacant units, down to 183,312 (20.3pc) since 2011.

Almost half-a-million households are renting, or some 30pc. Almost 49,000 pay more than €300 a week, a rise of 166pc in five years. The average weekly rent now stands at €199.92.
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