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Friday 19 October 2018

Danger lurks in the ghost estates haunting our towns and villages

Edel Kennedy

Mark Twain once famously said: "Buy land, they're not making it any more."

But the mantra in Ireland during the past 10 years could easily have been: "Buy land -- and build on every inch."

Across the country, rash zoning decisions in small towns and villages saw housing estates spring up.

Ballyforan in Co Roscommon is one village where sales of new homes have stalled, and prices have now been slashed in an attempt to lure buyers.

Built in what is essentially a one-street village, the Claremont development is now offering homes as part of the rent-to-buy scheme. Costing from €650 per month, it's the "easy way to owning your dream home" according to the blurb. Another, Pairc Caislean, has hoarding up around an empty site adjacent to some already completed houses.

In Roscommon, and other counties such as Cavan, Longford and Leitrim, tax incentives saw scores of developers building large estates in small towns so that eager buyers could take advantage of the Section 23 tax relief under the Rural Renewal Tax Incentives Scheme.

But unfortunately the scheme didn't work in the way it was planned and in many cases it simply created ghost estates in rural areas.

Back in 2003, estate agents in Roscommon warned that "demand is beginning to outstrip supply" but it is now clear there is massive oversupply in all of these counties.

Even houses built adjacent to towns were left struggling to find buyers as the downturn in the property market took hold.

Last month in Cavan, 35 houses in Ardkill Place, Ballinagh, went on sale for between €100,000 and €185,000. This was a drop of up to €150,000 on the original asking price, after the construction company that originally built the scheme went into receivership last year.

Even the cities aren't immune. Thousands of apartment blocks across Dublin lie unsold and empty and are likely to remain that way for some time.

Last month a vicious attack highlighted the dangers of living in estates that have few residents.

Asta Digimaite had to undergo emergency surgery after a man forced his way into her apartment in Prospect Hill, Finglas, and slashed off her two fingers.

She was unable to alert any residents and seek help because all the nearby apartments were empty. Nearby hotel staff called an ambulance.

In 2006, in one of the few such interventions by the Government, the then Minister for Environment Dick Roche stopped plans to rezone more than 1,000 acres of land in Co Laois for development in 29 villages which today still have the greenfield sites instead of empty housing estates.

Irish Independent

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