Just published: NIRSA Working Paper 67 – Unfinished Estates in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland by Rob Kitchin, Cian O’Callaghan and Justin Gleeson.

Abstract

In the wake of the global financial crisis, and the ongoing financial and fiscal crisis in Europe, much attention has focused on Ireland and its beleaguered economy given its status as one of the PIIGS and the fact that it had to be bailed out by the troika of the IMF, EU and ECB in November 2010.  Whilst much of the gaze has been directed at Ireland’s banks and the strategy of the Irish government to manage the crisis, a substantial amount of interest, both nationally and internationally, has been focused on the property sector and in particular the phenomenon of so-called ‘ghost estates’ (or in official terms, unfinished estates).  As of October 2011 there were 2,846 such estates in Ireland and they have come to visibly symbolise the collapse of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy.  In this paper, we examine the unfinished estates phenomenon, placing them within the context of Ireland’s property boom during the Celtic Tiger years.  We detail the characteristics and geography of such estates, the various problems afflicting the estates and their residents, and the Irish government’s response to addressing those problems. In the final section we speculate as to the fate of such estates given the approach adopted and the wider political and economic landscape.

Full paper is here.

 

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There’s been a fair bit of discussion in the media as to whether unfinished developments will be demolished.  The Mullingar Advertiser is reporting that a six acre site in village of Ballynagore, Westmeath is being returned to greenfield status by the local authority at a cost of 40,000 euro after local residents pressed for action.  The site presently comprises three almost complete bungalows that were erected in 2009 (I’ve had a look on Google Street View and I think the photo is the site as of May 2010) and was due to double the size of the village if completed.  The site has been described as dangerous posing health and safety concerns, with several large holes and an absence of secure fencing preventing access.  There have been reports of anti-social behavior, with the houses badly vandalised.  It was also unsightly, with several graffiti tags.

Unfinished estate, Ballynagore

There seems to be some confusion as to who owns the site and the person believed to be the developer is refusing to engage with the Westmeath County Council.  Given the lack of cooperation the Council is using the Derelict Sites Act to take action, including knocking down the three bungalows.  At present, the Mullingar Advertiser is reporting that it seems unlikely that the Council will be able to recover the costs of demolition.

Whilst it is good to see Westmeath County Council being proactive in tackling the site, it also raises a couple of questions including:  Why is there confusion over who is the owner/developer? Why can’t the bond be drawn to down to contribute/cover costs?  If the developer has defaulted, why can’t the bank be called on to cover costs?  Is there any possibility of the site transferring to local authority ownership in lieu of costs?  It seems a shame to knock three almost complete bungalows, six kilometres from the M6 at Kilbeggan, but clearly they are in a poor state of repair and the local authority feel they and the site are past saving at this point without the developer’s input.

What the story does make clear is that some unfinished estates are now starting to be levelled and returned to greenfield status.  It’ll be interesting to see the extent to which other sites follow suit.

Rob Kitchin