Charity urges demolition rethink
A leading housing charity has urged state bad-bank Nama to only consider knocking down empty and unfinished houses as a last resort.
The Respond Housing Association called for a national audit of abandoned homes and so-called ghost estates before civil servants chasing developers' debts order demolition.
Spokeswoman Aoife Walsh said waiting lists for local authority accommodation were rising and said Nama should now deliver on the promised social dividend.
"It could be argued that the only real housing market at the moment is the social housing market as private demand has been virtually wiped out," she said.
It is estimated there are between 301,000 and 352,000 vacant houses in Ireland.
Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh has told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service it may be forced to knock down unfinished property developments outside Dublin.
The agency has taken control of the first tranche of loans from major banks paying almost half the book value for them.
But Nama has warned only one third of loans - €27bn of the €81bn to be taken over by Nama - are functioning with debtors paying money owed or at the very least some of the interest on the loan.
As a result Mr McDonagh warned demolition may be the only course of action.
But Ms Walsh said: "From our experience, there are few empty estates with no residents at all. However, we have come across many, many estates with only a handful of people living in them and we would ask what Nama proposes for them? We should be trying to create vibrant, sustainable communities for these people and that is why we would consider knocking down houses as the very last resort."