AS Hallowe’en approaches, the spectre of ghost estates lingers across the county. According to the National Survey of Ongoing Housing Developments published this week by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Clare has a total of 72 unfinished housing estates, of which work is ongoing at just eight.
Following the publication of the report, Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey has called for the “nightmare of unfinished housing or ghost estates” in County Clare to be tackled.
The number of incomplete housing developments in the county is six times that of Limerick City, higher than Limerick County and Galway City but less than Galway County.
Almost 90% do not have any construction activity on site, the survey showed. The developments examined consisted of nearly 3,000 units in the county, including houses, apartments and duplexes. More than half of the houses in the 72 estates are complete and occupied with 22% complete but vacant. There are 20 units that were near completion but with no building activity evident. More than 5% of units in the incomplete developments had reached damp proof coursing level but inspectors registered no activity on site. The survey also showed that no work had started on more than 16% of planned housing units in the 72 developments.
The department undertook the survey between May and September this year to establish a proper evidence basis for action by Government and local authorities in relation to planning, housing and building control.
“The figures released in the National housing development survey tells the true story of the extent to which Fianna Fáil fuelled an unsustainable property bubble in the country over the past decade. They did this through unsustainable tax breaks and by presiding over an economy which had an over reliance on property tax,” Deputy Carey said.
“We now have to deal with the fallout from this failed policy. There are 72 so-called ghost estates in County Clare, with 2,955 individual units ranging from apartments to houses and commercial units. I have met and spoken with families living in what can only be described as permanent building sites. They have minimal services and huge issues in relation to sanitation and safety for themselves and their families,” he stated.
He called for a “swift inventory of the current housing stock in county Clare”.
“We need to know how many of these unfinished estates have a viable future. Where families are living, we need to put safety first. We cannot allow a generation to be brought up in a half-finished housing estate, which is totally unsuitable for their needs,” he added.
“Some of these estates, depending on their condition and location, could be used for the benefit of their communities, others may suit as affordable or social housing, while a certain number may have a viable future if outstanding works are completed. As a last resort, demolition maybe required. Many towns and villages throughout County Clare are having to deal with the dangers and eyesores that unfinished developments create.
“It’s critical that a determination be made on the future of each unfinished development as quickly as possible in the interest of the communities where they are located. There are many families in County Clare living in conditions that are extremely dangerous with open sewers, broken scaffolding, building materials and water contamination present. For these families, the promise of another toothless talkshop from government is of little consolation,” Mr Carey said.
“I am also calling on Clare County Council to take a lead in assisting, where it can, those families living in dangerous housing estates. The council must do everything it can to ensure that Clare men, women and children grow up in a decent standard of accommodation. If we cannot ensure this, there is a real danger that the erosion of community will lead to a host of social problems in years to come,” Deputy Carey concluded.