A total of 155 new houses were completed in Westmeath during the January to November period last year, according to the latest figures produced by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF ).
According to the latest CIF National Housing Statistics Bulletin this represented a drop of 21 per cent or 42 houses compared to the same period in 2011, when a total of 197 housing units were completed.
The drop in the rate of house building in Westmeath slightly exceeded the national trend. Nationally there was a 20.4 per cent drop in house building for the January to November period. Some 7,662 houses were completed up to the end of November 2012 but the year before had seen 9,630 houses finished. This marked a drop of 1,968 houses completions.
Speaking about the housing figures, CIF director general Tom Parlon said, “These figures underline the difficulties that faced the construction sector in 2012. It was another difficult year for builders in Westmeath and throughout the country. Nationally 2012 was the worst year on record for the level of new housing units built.
“2011 had held the record for the lowest level of house completions when 10,480 units were built. That had been the lowest since records began in 1970. However we expect the final figure for 2012 to be considerably below that - somewhere in the region of 8,000 units in total.
“The residential property market is still recovering from the problems generated during the Celtic Tiger days. We still have an oversupply of housing in certain parts of the country. As long as that oversupply exists it will be difficult for new house building activity to be completed in these areas.”
However Mr Parlon said there are signs that the year ahead will be more positive for the sector.
“In urban areas the level of vacant housing is dropping to low levels and there is also an increased level of demand. The fact that house prices are now more affordable is also encouraging interest, following years of price decreases. Add in the beginnings of increased lending by the banks and it represents a positive indicator for the residential sector,” he said.
“We saw an increase in demand for housing in some parts of the country towards the end of 2012 and the expectation is that this will continue in 2013. If that demand continues the vacant stock will decrease and that will lead to more house building activity. The ESRI has said that this country requires 15,000 to 20,000 new housing units each year. We will have to start meeting those figures in the medium term based on the simple demographics of the country if we are to have sufficient housing supply.
“However the different levels of demand and the different levels of vacant housing throughout the country mean there will be a widespread variation in when the house building activity will increase again,” Mr Parlon concluded.