- New analysis shows that housing crisis is forcing more people to live in cramped conditions
- Housing costs and shortage of social and rental homes leading to overcrowding
- Government ‘needs to introduce an affordable housing scheme for workers grappling with high childcare costs’
More than one in 20 families are living in overcrowded conditions, a 35pc rise in a decade.
Startling figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show thousands of households are living in sub-standard accommodation and unable to move due to soaring costs and a lack of homes available to rent or buy.
An analysis of Census data from 2006 and 2016 shows that the housing crisis is forcing more people to live in cramped conditions. Just over a decade ago in 2006, some 70,097 households were deemed to be living in overcrowded conditions – defined as living in a property with more people than rooms.
But by April 2016, when the last Census was taken, the number had shot up to 95,013 – an increase of some 35pc, or 24,916.
This figure equates to 5.6pc of all households across the State being classified as living in overcrowded accommodation. The data, compiled by the CSO and analysed by the Irish Independent, is based on settlements that are defined as areas with a minimum of 50 dwellings.
Housing charity Threshold said the main reason for overcrowding was housing costs and the shortage of social and rental homes.
“Some people can’t leave the family home, as they can’t afford the rents,” chief executive John-Mark McCafferty said.
“People are stuck in family homes with their children and there are three generations in a house and that can lead to mental health issues where people are dealing with the real stress of overcrowding.
“For many people an overcrowded home is a better option than potential homelessness. But sadly some families have and will end up in emergency accommodation because they will endure such stress from living in a crowded home.”
Violeta Savickiene (49) lives with her granddaughter and three adult children in a three-bedroom home in Balbriggan, Co Dublin. She adores having her family with her, but hopes one day there will be an affordable housing option for her children.
While family comes first, she says her adult children cannot afford to move out, given the high cost of renting. The family must live under one roof, and work together to create the best home possible.
“There are positives and negatives to living together,” Ms Savickiene said. “We have dinners together and we share laughter and having my family around me means I’m never lonely. I think it’s really important to stay positive. We all work together to make the best family atmosphere.
“My 26-year-old daughter, the mother to my granddaughter who’s one-and-a-half, works full-time and I know she really wants a place of her own. But the price of rent means that’s just not possible. She has the little one to look after and there is no affordable housing for single parents in the city.
“My son (22) and daughter (20) go to DIT and as they’re students, rent is not an option. I’m lucky that I’m self-employed and I can help out with minding my granddaughter sometimes. I love my job, and art keeps me happy. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for families who maybe don’t get on and who work in jobs they hate. That would make the situation very tough.”
She says the Government needs to introduce an affordable housing scheme for workers grappling with high childcare costs. In the meantime, she encourages her family to save in the hope that one day they’ll own their own homes.
The CSO figures also show that in six settlements, more than 10pc of all households are living in overcrowded conditions.
The highest rate is in Saggart, Co Dublin, at 15pc of all homes, or 165 units. It is followed by Balbriggan in north Dublin with 1,066 households in overcrowded conditions – 14.7pc of all households in the town.
While almost half of overcrowded households are found in the five cities, 49,582 are living in towns and villages.
In absolute terms, the highest increase outside the cities was in Balbriggan, up 721 families, followed by Swords at 486 families, Drogheda in Co Louth at 473 and Navan in Co Meath at 414. In Munster, the highest increase was in Midleton in Cork, up 220 households. In Ulster, the highest increase was in Cavan town, up 114. In Connacht, the sharpest rise was in Loughrea, Co Galway, up 48.
Mr McCafferty from Threshold said this situation would continue until the Government took tangible measures to improve the prospect of more affordable and social housing for families.
The sharpest fall in overcrowding rates was in Dunmore East in Co Waterford, down 47pc or by nine households. In absolute terms, Gort in Co Galway saw the sharpest fall, with 34 fewer families living in overcrowded accommodation in 2016 compared with 2006.
The lowest overcrowding rate is in Strandhill, Co Sligo, at only 1.1pc. This represents seven households.