There has been much talk of unfinished housing developments, or ghost estates, in the media of late. Essentially, the Minister for Housing, Willie Penrose has called for developers and banks to take a more pro-active approach to dealing with these developments. His Advisory Group (Resolving Ireland’s Unfinished Housing Developments) is looking at potential, long-term solutions to ensure the viability of these developments within the context of the community.

Their final report issued last week, identifying 2,846 ghost estates, approx 23,000 completed but vacant with a further 20,000 nearing completing.

Recommendations are to take a more co-ordinated approach between all stakeholders; to carry out public safety works as a matter of priority; to put in place legislative and policy framework to incentivise real engagement by developers, site owners and funders in working with local authorities and residents in resolving unfinished housing developments; and finally, to re-build confidence in the housing sector.

In response, Minister Penrose also published his response regarding actions and measures required to be taken in respect of the Final Report’s conclusion, a summary of which are outlined below:

• Establishment of a National Co-ordination Committee to oversee the implementation of action on unfinished developments and to monitor and drive progress (did someone say quango..?)

• Formal protocols for liaison between the various stakeholders; developers, financial institutions; residents; local authorities; approved housing bodies and the Department, should be put in place to facilitate the sharing of information;

• Resolution of public safety and other critical issues e.g. public lighting, drainage etc., that are having a serious impact on the living conditions and quality of life for residents of unfinished developments should be dealt with as a matter of urgency;

• Prioritisation by local authorities of a number of developments to act as lead projects to demonstrate what can be achieved;

• Implementation of the best practice Guidance Manual on Managing and Resolving Unfinished Housing Developments, which will be published later this month together with the Code of Practice (currently being finalised by the Department), which will set out ways of resolving unfinished developments.

It remains to be seen how efficient these measures will be. Success is crucial for the property market but the scale of the problem is huge and some difficult decisions will need to be made. Will demolition be considered? Will planning be reversed or revoked – if so, on what basis?

We will keep a watching brief and update buyers when we have more information.

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