1,100 ghost estates still a 'serious problem'
on 29/11/2012 00:00:00
A report on the scale of the problem has found there are 1,770 unfinished housing developments across the country, of which over 1,100 are in a "seriously problematic condition".
A total of 91,692 houses are complete and occupied, equating to 49% of all homes on ghost estates - up over 12,400 on last year's figures.
Jan O'Sullivan, the housing and planning minister, pointed out that there had been a 37% reduction in the number of unfinished developments since 2010, while the number of vacant units had fallen by 27% over the same period.
Over the past year, she said problems with 296 housing estates had been effectively resolved.
"A renewed focus by all stakeholders, including local authorities, developers, lenders, and local residents is working and communities are benefiting," said Ms O'Sullivan. However, she acknowledged that hundreds of families were continuing to experience the stress and strain of living on an unfinished development.
She said it had to be recognised that some developments were commercially unviable due to their location and poor quality of the housing.
While Ms O'Sullivan accepted that some estates would have to be bulldozed, she declined to put an estimate on the number of developments facing such a measure.
"The most prudent course of action in relation to these developments from a public safety, planning, and commercial prospective is to seek the agreement of owners/funders to clear the site and return it to some beneficial use."
Ms O'Sullivan claimed work on the 1,110 most problematic estates would be the focus for her department over the coming months with action plans for these developments due to be finalised by the first half of 2013.
Commenting on the findings, the Construction Industry Federation said they confirm the existence of a two-speed property market.
Spokesman Hubert Fitzpatrick said there were low levels of vacant residential homes in urban areas and their surrounding counties, while there was a distinct problem of oversupply in many rural areas.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the figures would indicate there will be a shortage of new housing units in several cities, particularly Dublin, before long.
The Department of the Environment also revealed it has so far paid out €2.2m out of €3.55m approved for urgent safety works in public areas of unfinished developments.
Planning experts predict the issue of unfinished estates will remain a problem in areas where there is a high ratio of vacant units to overall population sizes and which will therefore ne difficult to sell or rent. These include border and Midlands counties including Leitrim, Longford, Cavan, Sligo, Laois, and Roscommon, as well as Co Cork.
The problem of ghost estates is least evident in Waterford and Limerick cities which have a relatively low number of vacant units.
The 2012 National Housing Development Survey identified 2,973 unfinished estates with space for 185,655 housing units, of which almost 30% were apartments.
About half of all homes are complete and occupied, with another 25,000 vacant but either complete or near completion. There has been no development at all in relation to some 60,000 units due to the lack of any building work or the expiry of planning permissions.
Co Cork has the largest number of ghost estates of any local authority, with 300 unfinished developments accounting for more than 19,302 units. While 8,875 units are occupied, there are 2,146 or 11% of the total complete but vacant, and another 809 units or 4% near completion.
Almost 40% of houses on such developments have seen little or no construction work.
Other counties with high number of unfinished developments include Wexford (179), Kerry (174), and Fingal and Cavan (149 each). In contrast, there are just nine ghost estates in Limerick City, 12 in Waterford City, and 21 in Cork City.
High levels of vacant homes on unfinished estates are also found in the four Dublin local authority areas where almost 4,500 units, mostly apartments, are complete yet unoccupied.
* Mapping of the boundaries of unfinished developments identified in the latest survey will be publicly available on myplan.ie next month. Detailed figures on ghost estates in each local authority area are available on the Department of the Environment's website, www.environ.ie