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Archive for August 8th, 2010

The Great Count that is underway by Ciaran Cuffe’s ministry has exposed some worrying initial findings on Ghost Estates. To recap, in April this year Ciaran Cuffe with his Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government hat on, announced a count of Ghost Estates throughout the country. As was pointed out by Professor Rob Kitchin of NIRSA on here last week, the count is restricted –  “It only has reference to post-April 2007 housing estates where there is vacancy above 10%. It therefore a) excludes estates where vacancy is below 10%, b) excludes unoccupied/ unfinished one-off housing, c) it assumes that estates started prior to April 2007 are both finished and have occupancy levels above 90%. There are lots of houses in pre-2007 estates that are empty; the same with one-offs.” The results of the Great Count are expected next month. However the Independent today reports that preliminary results indicate that one quarter of Ghost Estates are potential health hazards with open sewage and water contamination. Although not yet published, a pilot study of County Laois apparently confirms there is a serious problem.

Of course one of the six strategies that NAMA may adopt for Ghost Estates is demolition (the other five are selling, development, leasing, management and mothballing) and apparently quite a number of estates in the State face this fate – Kerry alone may have 21 estates earmarked for demolition though not all of them will be going to NAMA.  And for those in favour of the demolition option, today’s news may be welcomed as it expands the “rat-infested, water-damaged” leg to their argument.

A concern raised here before, for example here and here is that demolition will be motivated primarily by the desire to reduce supply and place a floor under house prices regardless of wider economic considerations. So the emotive issues of open sewage and water contamination should be considered in the context of the economics of rectifying the problems versus the cost of losing valuable infrastructure.

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