This piece also in the Irish Times today:

“Emails, texts and phone calls kept coming all week as hordes of foreign journalists flew into our beleaguered country.  … [A]ll of them were hunting for ghost estates.  Images of empty Irish houses, the symbol pretty universally chosen to illustrate our plight, haunted TV screens and foreign newspapers.  But where to find them?  Bill Nowlan maintains that journalists will have a hard time tracking real ‘ghost estates’ down.  Says Nowlan  ‘It’s hard to find semi-derelict tumbleweed estates – because they’re largely a media fiction.”

As per the early post today, 1,475 estates out of the 2,846 unfinished estates identified by the DEHLG have uncompleted properties on them.  Admittedly they are not all semi-derelict tumbleweed estates, and many of them are nice estates, but one doesn’t have trouble finding unfinished estates that look worse for wear (especially on estates where there are high rates of under-construction properties).   Media fiction they are not, though the media does focus on the very worst of them (which I agree is not helpful or fully representative of the range of conditions of estates and this variation does need to enter into the discussion about them).  And as the earlier post notes, these estates have a range of real issues that need redress.  However, it is certainly not hard to find them – take a drive through any county in the country.

Unfinished estates are chosen as a symbol to highlight our plight because ultimately lending for property is at the root of the state we find ourselves in.  We take no pleasure in having to point out they exist, but pretending that they don’t or that only a handful have issues will not help address the problems residents or the property market faces.

If anyone else approaches the Irish Times and the IT doesn’t know where to point them – either direct them to the maps on the DEHLG website or refer them to, but don’t pretend the 2,846 unfinished estates don’t exist or that the problems relating to them are trivial.  Denial is not going to make the issue go away (ask Brian Lenihan about the banking and fiscal crisis).  Next we’ll be told we don’t have any zombie hotels, or empty retail parks, or vacant offices, etc.  They too are a mirage.

Rob Kitchin