IrelandAfterNAMA’s own Rob Kitchin has won two major book awards for his book ‘Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life‘, co-authored with Martin Dodge, and published by MIT Press.  The American Library Association has awarded the book ‘CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2011’.  The Association of American Geographers have awarded the book the 2011 ‘AAG Meridian Book Award for the Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography’.  The Meridian Award recognizes one book, from across the whole discipline, that ‘makes an unusually important contribution to advancing the science and art of geography’.

In selecting the book, the AAG committee wrote:  “We feel it pushed the envelope as it explained the linkages between software and human behavior in a spatial context.  This book articulates how space and software have become so intertwined that they constitute one another in our lives. It is one of the rare books that link critical social theories with technology and philosophy. Using everyday spaces, it demonstrates how such spaces are transformed by code and how new spaces of interactions are recreated. It is the type of book that can interface with many different disciplines. It is one of the few geography books taking the technology and the potential in reconstituting space seriously.”

The Meridian Award will be presented to Prof Kitchin on February 28, 2012 in the Trianon Ballroom of the New York Hilton in Manhattan, at the AAG’s annual conference to be attended by over 8,000 geographers.

Kitchin, R. and Dodge, M. (2011)  Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life.  MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.  978-0-262-04248-2

According to the 2006 census there were 51,441 housing units in Cork City of which 6167 were vacant (exc. holiday homes).  Between Apr 06 and end of 2009 the DEHLG housing completion data reveals an additional 3,579 units were built.  To put that in perspective, in 1996-2006 the number of households increased by 2,636 well below the vacancy and new build rates.  At the same time, Cork’s development over the last decade offers one of the best examples of plan-led development in Ireland. The Cork Area Strategic Plan and the Cork Docklands Development Strategy both aimed to implement an approach to development that was coordinated at the urban and regional levels, and aimed to stimulate growth that was in line with NSS guidelines and best practice in spatial planning.  So, if Cork followed an evidence-based approach to planning for development, why is it now suffering such high levels of vacancy?

There are a range of factors that influence this.  For one, development in Cork has suffered from unfortunate timing.  For the last decade, the projected growth expected from the docklands project has informed the scale and type of development in Cork city.  Cork is not characterised by urban density and does not have a legacy of apartment living.  The docklands project sought to fundamentally alter this pattern.  The project planned to stimulate the growth of the knowledge economy in Cork city by providing new office spaces in the docklands.  Additionally, the docklands would provide a range of new amenities (schools, parks, crèches, bars, restaurants, cafes) that would encourage both single residents and families to live and work in the city centre.  By the time the recession hit, the docklands project had yet to really get off the ground.

However, the developments that had happened in the city had based themselves on these projections.  Thus, developments like the Elysian that aimed to capitalise on the emerging trend towards apartment living were coming on stream at a time when the property market was imploding, making them an even more risky proposition in that they not only had to contend with a distressed market but also battle against entrenched consumer preferences.  At the same time, new housing estates were being developed in the suburbs.  Many of these came on stream at the wrong time.  Additionally, many prospective buyers had been priced out of the market as property prices soared, forcing them further out into the county.

Similarly in the County, expected growth was predicated on the designs of the CASP to create a commuter zone around the metropolitan city region.  Many speculative housing developments sought to capitalise on these trends.  Both the CASP and the CDDS are long-term strategies that were only beginning to see tangible results over the last three or four years.  As such, the recent surge of development interest in Cork was unfortunately in synch with the crash.

While these projects were certainly based on a strong rationale couched within the logic of spatial planning, it should also be said that the levels of growth expected from these strategies was excessive; the outcome of entangling reasonable and sensible projections with the fever dream of the Celtic Tiger.  Furthermore, even though Cork attempted to implement an evidence-based forward planning approach parts of the city and county were also characterised by the type of ad-hoc and clientalist developmental practices seen in other counties.  As David Counsell suggests in his study of the CASP, while on paper the plan suggested a coordinated effort by City and County Councils to plan and manage the growth of the region, the actuality was more fragmented.  Local Councillors still managed to rezone land for  development in towns and villages upon which massive housing estates were built that were in excess of reasonable demographic projections and against the objectives of the CASP.  Many of these developments are now unfinished ghost estates, while others are situated in areas without proper social provisions.

Rather than indicating the futility of evidence-based planning, the case of Cork demonstrates the problems associated with the fragmentation of the Irish planning system.  In the absence of joined-up planning, local authorities have only limited abilities to guide development in coordinated ways, and are often at the whim of local Councillors and developers.  While Cork certainly was not immune from the frenzied over-development of the Celtic Tiger period, the fact that to a certain extent this development followed a coherent plan means that in the long-run this may not be as destructive as in other counties, where development has left run amok without rhyme or reason.  Furthermore, it speaks more fundamentally about the difficulty of implementing a strategic approach to planning in the Irish context.  Because of the vagaries of planning structures and the lack of statutory regional policies, strategic planning is constantly challenged and undermined.

Cian O’ Callaghan and Rob Kitchin

As has been reported in the media over the past couple of years, unemployment and Live Register recipients have been increasing rapidly as the recession deepens.  To date though we have little detailed knowledge of their geography which prompted us to try and map Live Register data at the Social Welfare Office scale.

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) which provides details on both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate at national and regional levels. According to the QNHS the number of unemployed people in Q3 ’09 was at a staggering 279,800, up from 102,600 in Q3 2006 (an increase of 173%). According to the CSO the QNHS classifies unemployed people as “those who, in the week before the survey, were without work or were available for work within the next two weeks, and had taken specific steps, in the preceeding four weeks, to find work”. Based on this classification the overall national unemployment rate has increased from 4.7% in Q3 ’06 to 12.7% in Q3 ’09. The QNHS also provides details at the NUTS 111 regional level. This gives a useful insight into the broad spatial trends across the country but the survey is not designed to allow an analysis at a sub-regional spatial scale (see Figure 1a and 1b).

Figure 1A and B: QNHS Unemployment Numbers and Percentage Change

Figure 1A and B: QNHS Unemployment numbers and percentage growth

An alternative method of analysing the spatial patterns of unemployment is to use the unadjusted Live Register at Social Welfare Office level. The Live Register is compiled from returns made by each local welfare office to the Department of Social and Family Affairs and passed onto the Central Statistics Office. It comprises of persons under-65 years of age in the following classes:

  • All Claimants for Jobseekers Benefit (JB) excluding systematic short-time workers
  • Applicants for Jobseekers Allowance (JA) excluding smallholders/farm assists and other self-employed persons
  • Other registrants including applicants for credited Social Welfare contributions but excluding those directly involved in an industrial dispute.

The Live Register is not specifically designed to measure unemployment as it includes part-time (those who work up to three days a week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Allowance or Jobseekers Benefit.  It does, however, allow an analysis of employment trends at both a county level and also at social welfare office level.  142 Social Welfare Offices are listed on the CSO website, data is however not available for all offices on a continuous time series basis as some have been closed for a number of years while others have been replaced by new offices. From September 2006 the number of offices has remained relatively stable with the exception for the Carrigaline Office which opened in Nov ’06 and the North Cumberland Street Office which was replaced by the Swords Office and King’s Inn Street in August ’09 – this data is not included in our analysis.  For the purposes of this analysis we will use 122 Social Welfare Offices open since September 2006.

In September 2006 there were 151,440 signing on the Live Register, this figure increased to a total of 436,936 in January 2010 (latest data available) representing a percentage increase of +188%.  The Live Register figures fluctuated marginally between our starting point (M09, 2006) and the end of 2007 with the percentage increase at 6.7% in November 2007. Figures steadily began to increase at this point and hit a peak of +187% in August 2009. Figures reduced slightly during the last months of 2009 but increased to hit a new high in January 2010 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Unadjusted Live Register Growth: 09 '06 to 01 '10

The scale of this increasing trend varied across the country with some areas experiencing much higher percentage increases in job losses than others. Figure 3a below details the number of recipients per Social Welfare Office in September 2006 and Figure 3b highlights the percentage increase in each office to January 2010. The vast majority of offices witnessed an increase of greater than 100% with many in excess of 300% (these patterns are clearly shown in the animation below).

Figure 3A: Live Register recipients at Social Welfare Office 09 '06 (Offices are sorted from left to right by NUTS 111 Region (Border, Midlands, West, Dublin, Mid-East, Mid-West, South-East and South-West) and by number of recipients per office in 09 ‘2006. The animation below will provide more detail on the changing patterns.)

Figure 3B. Live Register Recipients by Social Welfare Office: % Change 09 '06 to 01 '10

In order to visualise the trends from our base date we have mapped Live Register growth at approximate Social Welfare Office catchments (see animation). At present the areas served by Social Welfare Offices do not correspond to specific geographic boundaries and registrants at a given local office do not necessarily reside within a precisely delineated area (e.g those signing at the Ballyfermot office do not necessarily have to live within the Ballyfermot area but may be from surrounding areas such as Palmerstown and Ronanstown that might be nearer to another office).  We have therefore created catchments for each office based on the assumption that a recipient will register at the nearest office to their residence.  The areas then are approximate catchments, wherein the vast majority of people live within the designated area, but a relatively small number of claimants might live beyond its bounds.

For a higher resolution animation please visit the NIRSA site (click here).

(a very pale area represents a decrease in Live Register claimants below the Q3 2006 rate, yellow 0-10% increase, pale brown 10-25% increase, light brown 25-50%, mid-brown 50-100% increase, dark brown 100-150% increase, red 150-200% increase, purple 200-250% increase and turquoise 250%+ increase).

What the animated map shows is that Live Register recipients fluctuated up and down for most of 2006, but from the start of 2007 started to increase rapidly, first in the south west before spreading nationally.  From the beginning of 2008 the first areas reached a 150% increase from the Q3 2006 figures, quickly followed by increases of 250% above the Q3 2006 figures in the south west, and increases of 200 to 250% in the commuter belts around the cities. By the end of 2009, most of the country was above the +150% rate with only a few peripheral areas such as parts of Waterford and the Atlantic fringe under that rate. As the Live Register figures continue to increase, those areas in red are likely to shift to purple and turquoise.  For our post on the microgeographies of the Live Register click here.

Justin Gleeson, Rob Kitchin, Matthias Borscheid

The Global Irish Economic Forum which met at Farmleigh in September reported back with 37 specific recommendations. These include:

  1. Establishing a Global Irish Network consisting of leading business and cultural figures from the global Irish community.
  2. Creating a ‘Gateway Ireland’ website to project Irish business, culture, and sport to the world using advanced technology and design.
  3. Founding a world class centre or university for the performing arts and Irish culture housed in a landmark building in Ireland, to become a global centre for artistic and creative education, innovation and technology.
  4. Launching a Farmleigh Forum Overseas Graduate Programme capable of supporting up to 500 young Irish graduates annually in securing jobs.

These initiatives are very welcome and it is great that things are starting to happen in the wake of the Farmleigh event, but a question which has not been sufficiently considered to date is the extent to which diaspora policies will consolidate, rather than reverse Ireland’s ever growing regional inequality and patterns of uneven development? (more…)

*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

We’ve been working to try and identify the location of ghost estate developments around the country. To do this we have been using a script to mine an address database that records details on 1.98m residential units in the state to identify all properties built post-2005 where 10 or more units share the same estate/street address and more than 50 percent are coded as either vacant or under-construction. We have then been through the resulting data to clean it with respect to multiple entries relating to the same estate and undertaken some preliminary cross-checking with house sale websites. (more…)

Since our post on ghost estates a couple of weeks ago I’ve been starting to think a bit about these estates and NAMA.  Any estate where the developer has a loan of over €5m will be taken into NAMA.  This raises a number of questions for those people living in such estates, because NAMA, in conjunction with the developer, has six options as to what it’ll do with vacant and under-construction housing stock in such estates (which will often be deployed in combination).  Each of these options has different consequences for residents. (more…)

We’ve had a number of queries concerning the rates of vacancy per county.  This is not straightforward to calculate for 2009.  The vacancy rate for 2006 is reported in the Census, and we know the total number of houses build per county between 2006 and 2009 from DoEHLG.  What we don’t know is the vacancy rate for 2006-09 in different counties.  Whilst we estimate the rate at 50% at the national scale, we also know that it varies across counties due to demand.  It is likely, for example, that the vacancy rate is lower in the cities and surrounding hinterland due to greater demand than in rural counties.  What the table below shows then is the total stock in 2006, along with the number of non-principal units, the vacancy rate in 2006, and the number of new builds between 2006-09.  So, if we take County Carlow, in 2006 there was a stock 20,135 units of which 2,475 were non-principal residences (vacant or vacant for the majority of the year – 12.3%).  Then between 2006-09 an additional 3522 units were built.

County vacancy rates

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin

We’ve been asked a few questions with regards to our estimates for vacant property (see post here).

1) What do we mean by vacant houses?

The 302,625 housing units we identified as vacant are properties that do not have anybody living in them as their principal residence for the majority of the year.  They are principally vacant, but not necessarily available for the market and include vacant houses available for sale, vacant houses available for rent, vacant houses that are not on the market, under-counted second and holiday homes, and abandoned properties

2) How did you determine that 50 percent of the 215,451 houses built between April 2006 and end of 2009 are vacant? (more…)

Since posting on the number of under-construction ghost estates in Ireland last week, we’ve been asked how many vacant houses there are in Ireland.  There is no exact figure released by any state agency, but by using Census 2006 and Dept of Environment, Local Government and Heritage, and making a couple of assumptions based on our analysis of these data, we can come up with an estimate – 302,625.  This figure includes vacant houses available for sale, vacant houses available for rent, vacant houses that are not on the market, under-counted second and holiday homes, and abandoned properties, but does not include 49,798 holiday homes recorded in 2006 census.  This is not a measure of availability but vacancy (some of which is available to the market now, and some of which will become available when prices rise/demand returns, some of which will not become available).

This is how we’ve calculated it. (more…)