WORK TO complete the State’s 2,000 unfinished housing developments has stalled due to a 40 per cent drop in on-site construction activity this year, according to the latest figures from the Department of the Environment.
However, the vacancy rate of completed houses on “ghost” estates has fallen by one-fifth since the department published its survey on the extent of the problem last year.
In addition, demolition has begun on estates were there is no prospect of completion, the department said.
Last October the department published its first national survey of the extent of the ghost estate problem, where developments are left unfinished and only a fraction of homes are occupied. It identified more than 2,800 unfinished or vacant housing estates.
A year on, some 700 estates have been completed and a further 100 on which no substantial work had started have been taken out of development, leaving a total of 2,066 “ghost” estates.
The 12-month period has seen a reduction in the vacancy rate of completed houses in these estates. Last year 23,250 houses were recorded as complete but vacant. This has now fallen to 18,638, a drop of about 20 per cent.
Carlow has the highest proportion of ghost estates, at 59 vacant units per 1,000 houses in the county, followed by 44 in Leitrim, 42 in Longford and 35 in Cavan. This compares with just three vacant houses for every 1,000 in Limerick city.
The highest number of vacant houses is in Cork with 2,363, or 19 for every 1,000 houses. Although there has been progress regarding selling or renting out properties, Minister of State for Housing Willie Penrose yesterday said he was concerned about the slowdown in construction. As a result, “many estates have been left in an incomplete and unsatisfactory state”, he said.
Of the 2,066 ghost estates, completion work was taking place on just 1,822.
Ensuring public safety on unfinished developments was a priority, Mr Penrose said. Some 247 estates were categorised as unsafe because of issues such as dangerous structures, uncovered manholes or unguarded building materials.
Of these, 20 are under the control of the National Asset Management Agency and a further 36 are being fixed by the developer or site owner.
Local authorities have applied to the department for funding to ensure the safety of 164 of these estates. A €5 million fund has been established for this work. To date, €2.10 million has been allocated to local authorities.
In a small number of cases, local authorities have decided to demolish estates where there is no hope of the developments being completed or where half-built structures have been exposed to the elements for so long that they would no longer be sound.
The department has granted Wexford County Council funding to demolish houses at the Coill na Giuise estate in Gorey, and has also approved funding to Laois County Council to demolish a three-storey apartment block at Corrig Glen, Portarlington.
Demolition work not funded by the department has also taken place in Westmeath, where three almost complete houses at Ballinagore were razed, and in Ballina, where six apartments at Quignalecka on the Sligo Road were torn down.
North Tipperary County Council is also planning to demolish the Terrace estate at Ardan, Nenagh Road, Borrisokane. Demolition would always be a “last resort”, Mr Penrose said, but it was likely that further estates would have to be razed on the guidance of local authorities.