*Update*   For details on the county breakdown of estates and units as documented in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s ‘unfinished estates’ survey, published 19th Oct 2010, see here and here.  For an overview of key statistics on housing vacancy, oversupply, unfinished and ghost estates see here.

** To view an interactive map of all 2846 estates in the DEHLG survey and their characteristics see our mapping module.


On Monday we posted an analysis that revealed that there are 621 ghost estates across the country (where a ghost estate consisted of an estate of ten houses or more house built post-2005 where more than 50 percent of units are either vacant or under-construction). What the analysis reveals is that the phenomenon of ghost estates is endemic to every county in Ireland. Simply detailing the number of estates per county, however, can give a false impression of the issue because it takes no account of the size of the overall population. Whilst Cork County (not including the Cork City area) has 90 ghost estates, it had a population of 361,788 in 2006. Leitrim has 21 estates but a population of 28,950. We have therefore standardised the number of estates by per 1000 head of population.

The data reveals is that counties Leitrim (21 estates), Longford (19) and Roscommon (35) have a particularly high ratio of estates per head of population, suggesting that these estates constitute an oversupply in the market. These are followed by Sligo (24), Cavan (21), Monaghan (18), Carlow (15), Cork County (90), Tipperary North (16), Kilkenny (21), Westmeath (18), and Laois (15) (full list below). Whilst some of these estates are vacant holiday home developments, they nevertheless are presently surplus to demand and are unlikely to be purchased in the short term whilst the market is still trying to find its bottom.

Ghost estates for each county per 1000 population

The presence of these estates in the Irish landscape raises some difficult questions concerning what to do about them. Whilst demand might return relatively quickly in urban areas when the economy picks up, and such estates might be used to deal with the social housing waiting list, it is likely that demand driven by demographic change will be weak in rural counties given that recessions generally lead to rural out-migration. It therefore seems likely that many properties in rural areas will remain empty for quite some time before the market picks back up again. Demographic forecasts would suggest population growth will occur over the long term in Ireland, and one would anticipate population levels to rise in the future in both rural and urban areas. There are questions as to whether the houses built in rural areas, in particular, will be fit for purpose by the time the market returns. Unless a strategy is put in place to maintain them, they will be left to the elements and quickly deteriorate.

For those living on such estates there are clearly social concerns about living with few neighbours and/or on estates that are abandoned construction sites with no street-lighting, pavements, or finished green areas, and in locations that lack amenities, services and public transport. Again, a strategy needs to be put in place for dealing with such estates with respect to making them fit to live in and turning them into thriving communities.

Ghost estates are clearly one of the markers of the present recession and it is now time to start to put in place policies that will start to deal with the phenomena, not least for those people who live on them.

The number of post-2005 ghost estates of 10 or more houses with a vacancy/under-construction rate of 50% or more for each county is as follows: Carlow (15), Cavan (21), Clare (9), Cork City (6), County Cork (90), Donegal (22), Dublin City (24), Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (10), Fingal (17), Galway City (6), Galway County (20), Kerry (21), Kildare (25), Kilkenny (21), Laoighis (15), Leitrim (21), Limerick City (0), Limerick County (11), Longford (19), Louth (17), Mayo (21), Meath (19), Monaghan (18), Offaly (6), Roscommon (35), Sligo (24), South Dublin (7), Tipperary North (16), Tipperary South (17), Waterford City (6), Waterford County (9), Westmeath (18), Wexford (24), Wicklow (11).

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin