Migrants face greater challenges in the Irish housing market than Irish-born

Migrants are concentrated in the private rented sector and many migrant groups have a much higher risk of overcrowding and homelessness than Irish-born. Using Census 2016 microdata, this report compares the housing and family situation of people born in Ireland with that of first-generation migrants, examining what this means for their integration.

Housing is a key component of integration, as adequate housing provides safety and shelter, and allows people to work, participate in education and in society more broadly. Migrants, like other individuals, are embedded in families, and the structure and nature of migrants’ families have implications for the integration of migrants and their children. By providing information on all migrants living in Ireland in 2016, census data gives excellent insight into the situation of many different migrant groups, which is not possible with other data sources.   

Housing Situation

  • Over half (56 per cent) of all migrants were living in private rented housing in 2016, compared to 13 per cent of Irish-born. 75 per cent of Polish migrants - one of the largest migrant groups in Ireland - lived in private rented accommodation.
  • 8 per cent of Irish-born individuals lived in overcrowded accommodation in 2016, a relatively low proportion when compared internationally. In contrast, almost 20 per cent of migrants in Ireland lived in overcrowded accommodation. Overcrowding rates were particularly high among some non-EEA migrants, including migrants from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (37 per cent), Sub-Saharan and Other Africa  (39 per cent), South Asia (41 per cent) and East Asia (37 per cent).
  • Migrants who lived in Ireland longer were less likely to be renting and live in overcrowded accommodation. Yet, for the substantial number of migrants who came in the period 2000-2009, private renting and overcrowding rates were still much higher than for Irish-born.
  • Homelessness is an extreme indicator of problems accessing housing. Census data shows that non-Irish nationals were overrepresented among homeless persons in Ireland; non-Irish nationals comprised 11 per cent of the total population, yet non-Irish nationals made up 25 per cent of persons in homelessness.

Family Situation

  • Greater similarity between migrants and Irish-born was observed on the family indicators, although some key differences emerged between migrant groups. Migrants from the UK and North America/Oceania tended to be more similar to the Irish-born group than to other migrants, in that they have similar numbers of children and similar proportions of lone parenthood.
  • Households with children that were headed by migrants from Eastern Europe and migrants from Asia (South Asia, East Asia, also MENA) were less likely to be lone parent households than Irish households with children. Of all migrant groups examined, Sub-Saharan and Other African-headed households were most likely to experience lone parenthood.
  • Apart from UK-born, European migrant groups tended to have fewer children, on average, than Irish-born head of households. Non-European migrant households tended to have slightly more children than Irish-headed households, though this varies between non-European groups.
  • The extent of mixed unions (i.e. partnerships or marriages between migrants and Irish-born) is often used as an indicator of integration. The highest rates of mixed unions were among household heads born in the UK and US/Oceania; among both groups around 70 per cent of all partnerships were with an Irish-born partner.
  • For other migrants groups, mixed unions were rare, particularly among East Europeans and Asian groups (South Asians, East Asians, MENA countries). For example, of all Polish household heads with a partner, only 3 per cent have an Irish-born partner. 

The evidence in this report indicates that housing should be a priority area for migrant integration policy and that housing should be incorporated into the successor to the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 as a matter of urgency.

Dr Frances McGinnity, lead author of the report noted, “Clearly, addressing major current challenges in the Irish housing market will benefit migrants, as they are disproportionately found in overcrowded accommodation and in homelessness. Addressing general tenants’ rights issues such as security of tenure in the private rental market and protection from rising rents will benefit all those in the private rented sector, including many migrants.”

Minister Roderic O’Gorman said:

“Access to suitable housing is essential for successful integration over the long term. This research finds evidence of marked differences in migrants’ housing situations compared to those of their Irish-born counterparts. Migrants are heavily concentrated in the private rental sector and face higher risks of overcrowding and homelessness. These findings demonstrate that we need to consider housing as an important part of integration policy.

At a time when we are working with colleagues across government and in all sectors to respond to the urgent accommodation needs of those feeling the war in Ukraine, this study is a timely reminder that migrants may face challenges accessing housing at any stage of their integration journey.

My Department will soon begin the development of a successor to the Migrant Integration Strategy. This work will provide a good opportunity to explore how we can address integration barriers that may be created or exacerbated by challenges in accessing housing.”