Anger at call to raze 'ghost estates'
Ray MacSharry clashes with top auctioneer over rescue of house market
Published 24/01/2010 | 05:00
THE head of Ireland's auctioneers and the former Finance Minister Ray MacSharry have clashed over the future of the so-called 'ghost estates' left over from the property boom.
President of the IAVI (Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute) Aine Myler has suggested that some new estates may have to be demolished altogether as part of an ongoing effort to restore stability to the property market.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent at the IAVI's annual conference in Dublin on Friday, Ms Myler said that as a result of poor planning and a lack of infrastructure, some of the country's newer housing stock may never be required.
Asked what could be done with these developments, Ms Myler said: "It's really difficult to know. It shows up a number of issues that emerged during the boom, where there was poor planning, the building of large estates where there was no infrastructure, no transport links and other links which have probably diminished in the meantime as a result of the retraction of services."
And while she readily conceded that there was a "huge national demand" for social housing, she went on to say that it would be unfair to place anyone in an estate if they did not want to live there.
She said: "We have a huge national demand of people who need housing from a social perspective, and yet that housing might be in locations where it's not required. Is it fair to ship people out to that location just because there happens to be an empty house there?
"I haven't heard any viable proposals about what to do other than to potentially knock down some of these developments."
Ms Myler's belief that demolition might be the only alternative for certain developments was met with total disagreement from Mr MacSharry.
"It shouldn't be the case under any circumstances that any construction should have to be knocked down," said the former finance minister credited with pulling Ireland out of the last recession.
"The country will survive. Why knock down structures that you know you are going to need in two, five or seven years? It's a ridiculous suggestion as far as I'd be concerned."
Offering his own view on the matter of the oversupply of housing across the country -- estimated last week to be as high as 300,000 units -- he said: "My own view has always been that the overhang should be purchased by local authorities to get rid of housing lists and the waiting lists. That would do a number of things. It would get rid of the housing list and it would generate activity in the housing sector."
But while the IAVI president drew the ire of Mr MacSharry for her views, she did receive some support from a more unlikely quarter.
Commenting on the matter, director of Social Justice Ireland (SJI), Fr Sean Healy, said: "People build estates in the wrong places where people don't live and consequently it's not possible for those estates to be viable. It makes no sense to ship people into communities that would be non-viable where some of these housing estates actually exist."
Citing examples in the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim as just two cases in point, he added: "One new estate in Roscommon that was built during the boom years, as far as I know there's nobody occupying any of the houses. It is a very small place. There is no way you can put 50 new households in there and have it viable.
"In another estate in Co Leitrim there were hundreds of houses built. Many of them are now not occupied. There is no viable support system for people on social housing in that context, so it makes no sense to move people into housing estates that have been built with no potential to be economically viable. They are (only) economically viable for people who have been living there all their lives."
The SJI director concluded by saying: "People who took the risks and put them there, maybe they see a possible future if they hold on to them long enough that they could be used as holiday homes in the summer, or for people who want a second home or something, I don't know.
"My reaction to it, in part at least, is that these were built on the basis of economic incentives and forecasts that were simply nonsensical and as a result people who built them are now left holding them and they have to find solutions."
Commenting on the overall prospects for Irish residential property, meanwhile, the IAVI president said she believed a three-tier market was now emerging.
"It will be a three-tier market, and we've seen already how that's started to divide up around the country where you have some activity at affordable levels in Dublin, a level of activity in other places, and then places where there is no activity," she said.