The number of new dwellings completed in the first three months of this year is sharply down, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The overall number of new dwellings is down by just over 20% compared to the same period last year.

The Covid-19 restrictions in place in the early part of this year had a significant impact on the number of new housing and apartment units built.

Overall, the number of units completed was down by 20.1% at 3,953 compared to 4,945 completed the same time last year.

Just 737 apartment units were completed, down 27% on the same period last year.

Units in housing schemes were down by 21% while single dwellings were down by 11.3%, today's CSO figures show.

Forecasts for the number of new homes to be built this year range between 15,000 and 20,000. Before the outbreak of Covid-19, it was believed up to 30,000 units could be delivered.

Today's CSO figures show that Dublin experienced the sharpest drop in completions.

There were 971 units completed in the capital, a drop of 40.9% on the 1,642 units completed in the first quarter of 2020.

The mid-east saw the next largest drop. Taken together, these two regions accounted for 52% of completions in the first quarter.

Of all the completions in Dublin, 52.1% were apartments. Dublin also accounts for 68.7% of total apartments completed in the first quarter.

The CSO noted that the impact of Covid-19 restrictions was not as bad in the first quarter as during the first lockdown last April.

In that month, there was a 72.8% drop in the number of units completed.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said this week that the number of new homes could fall to between 12,000 and 14,000 this year with only the building of social homes allowed until last month to slow the spread of a third wave of Covid-19.

Goodbody's chief economist Dermot O'Leary said the broker had recently increased its forecast for completions to 21,000 and that the first quarter figures were also in line with that revised estimate.

"Given that the sector was locked down for the entire quarter, this is not a bad result, which suggests that the definition of "essential" within the COVID restrictions was stretched by some," Dermot O'Leary said in a note.

A decade-long scarcity of housing supply in Ireland following the bursting of a property bubble led to a rapid rise in the cost of a home, particularly rents.

House prices have begun to pick up again and grew 3% year-on-year in February.