€5m allocated to repair ghost estates

 

DEVELOPERS WHO have abandoned unfinished housing estates will be pursued for any public money used to fix health and safety hazards, Minister of State for Housing Michael Finneran has said.

Mr Finneran was speaking in advance of the publication today of the draft report of the advisory group on unfinished housing developments. It found that almost 350 estates were in need of urgent work to ensure the safety of residents and the public. Some 52 of these estates were in the Cork County Council area, 34 were in Cavan and 23 were in Donegal.

Mr Finneran said he was allocating €5 million to deal with the most urgent problems in the estates as he felt he had a “moral responsibility” to the residents who had endured “enough hardship” in recent years. However, he said the money would have to be recouped, either through the future sale of houses or by taking properties into local authority ownership for use for social housing.

“This money will have to be recouped to the taxpayers of this country, because I am not in the business of bailing out people who gambled in estates, who took out big loans for big developments. I am responding to a public safety need.”

Mr Finneran said it would be unfair of him to pledge more than €5 million so close a general election. “If it isn’t adequate I expect to take a look at it.”

Chairman of the advisory group John O’Connor, who is also chief executive of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency, dubbed the “Nama for local authorities”, said the list of 348 estates was not definitive. Local authorities were best placed to advise which estates in their areas were most in need of, or would most benefit from, funding to resolve public safety issues. In some cases where structures had become dangerous or there was no hope of completion, demolition may have to be considered, but that would be decided on a “site by site, case by case” basis by local authorities, he said.

The report does not identify the names of the estates but The Irish Times understands they include the Castlemoyne Estate in Balgriffin, Co Dublin and Ard na Locha in Moate, Co Westmeath.

Once the urgent problems have been addressed the group recommends site resolution plans be prepared by the developer or owner of each estate in collaboration with the local authority. In cases where the developer has abandoned the estate, the local authority should put in place its own site action plan, but should recoup the costs in time from the developers.

Mr Finneran said he expected new legislation would be required to deal with the long-term problems of ghost estates.