'Ghost' estates to get €5m to deal with safety issues

 

SOME 180 unfinished or “ghost” housing estates have been abandoned by their developers, according to new figures submitted by local authorities around the State to the Department of the Environment.

The department is to release €5 million to county and city councils in the coming weeks to deal with the most urgent public safety issues in these estates, including open manholes and excavations, unsecured construction sites and incomplete or inadequate sewerage systems.

Addressing an advisory seminar for local authority officials yesterday, Minister of State for Housing Willie Penrose said it was “totally unacceptable” for estates to be left in this condition coming into the summer months as the vacant properties were a “natural magnet” for children.

The 180 developer-abandoned estates represent just over half of the ghost estates identified as being in need of urgent attention by a government report last February.

The report of the Advisory Group on Unfinished Housing Developments singled out some 350 estates, representing almost 8,000 houses, where there was less than 50 per cent occupancy and partially finished or vacant housing, which posed safety hazards for residents.

The local authorities were then asked to assess the report and identify which estates had been abandoned by developers, with no receivers appointed.

These 180 are now categorised as most in need of intervention to resolve their safety problems as the local authorities have been unable to get any developer, site owner or other party to take responsibility for their condition.

While local authorities would be funded to tackle public safety hazards, “irresponsible developers” who had abandoned estates and “their funders” would be made to honour their obligations, Mr Penrose said.

“Any expenditure approved by my department must be ultimately recouped from the existing or future owners and developers of such sites in order to protect the public purse.”

In addition to the estates which represented a danger to public safety, more than 2,000 other unfinished or substantially vacant estates have been identified nationally. Where houses were complete and in a livable condition, “positive uses”, including their leasing or purchase from Nama, would be considered, Mr Penrose said.

“There are surplus units in parts of the country. In many of those areas, there are households on waiting lists in need of good quality housing.”

Mr Penrose said he intended to establish and chair a national co-ordination group which would oversee the work of local authorities in resolving the key problems in unfinished developments. The details of the 180 estates would also be sent to Nama, he added.