Developers will be made finish off ghost estates

DEVELOPERS will be forced to finish and clean up ghost estates after a survey found more than 100,000 dwellings are lying empty, incomplete or were planned but never built.

As the extent of the problem was revealed for the first time, it has also emerged that boom-time builders did not leave cash bonds to finish off many of the 2,800 estates littered around the country.

Planning Minister Ciarán Cuffe also admitted a previous government policy of tax breaks to boost development during the boom had been “naive”.

Asked whether Fianna Fáil’s policies during the boom were to blame for the debacle, Mr Cuffe admitted: “It was at best naive to expect that blanket tax designation of entire counties would raise all boats. We know that now. Everybody knows that now.”

The survey found:

* There were plans for 180,000 housing units on the “ghost” estates surveyed, but just over 78,000 have been completed and occupied.

nNo work has begun on 58,000 planned homes, while another 23,000 dwellings are lying empty.

* Around 20,000 houses and apartments are unfinished, half of them nearly completed and the other half just begun.

* In the greater Dublin area, just over 21,000 of around 50,000 dwellings are complete and occupied.

* In ghost estates in Cork, only 8,300 out of 20,600 are finished and occupied.

The survey also highlighted thousands of incomplete roads, footpaths and lighting in housing estates nationwide.

An expert group, chaired by John O’Connor, of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency, and which will include Government, the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), banking, construction and planning representatives, will advise local authorities on the completion of estates. It will have its first meeting in the coming weeks.

Housing Minister Michael Finneran said a key to resolving unfinished estates was making empty homes available for social housing.

“Landlords, builders, developers and banks are all sitting on properties that they cannot sell, that they cannot either rent out or they don’t want to. Some of the properties will end up in NAMA.”

However, suggestions that many of the empty housing would have to be bulldozed were dismissed.

The Labour Party’s housing spokesman, Ciaran Lynch, said the figures read like a Domesday book for the end of the Celtic Tiger.

“What is clear is that people who bought homes in these estates are living through a hell that has come about as a result of a Government that saw housing policy simply as a means of delivering bounty to their pals in the construction and investment community, rather than providing homes for people who need a place to live,” he said.

Fine Gael housing spokesman Terence Flanagan accused the Government of putting off real solutions by creating another taskforce. He said many of the estates were a danger to residents.

“Thousands are left living in ghost estates with dangerous conditions such as open sewers and water contamination.

“Homeowners who purchased their home in good faith deserve better.”


Lifestyle

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