Minister for demolition

The Dublin government is to flatten housing developments across the 26 Counties in a desperate bid to reinflate Ireland’s property bubble.

The chief executive of the state’s new assets management agency (NAMA) has said some estates would have to be bulldozed.

It fell to new Green Party junior minister Ciaran Cuffe to introduce the move today, but he claimed the motivation was aesthetic rather than financial.

In recent weeks, NAMA has taken ownership of tens of thousands of empty properties as part of the controversial state bailout of developers, speculators and bank shareholders.

It is now establishing a committee to examine what should be done with “ghost” housing estates and other “zombie” developments.

It is understood that plans are well advanced for housing estates which have become neglected to be razed to the ground to reduce the “over-supply” of housing and jump-start renewed property speculation.

In his first major speech since taking office, Ciaran Cuffe told the Irish Planning Institute’s annual conference in Tullamore that he was “very concerned” about the impact of unsold and unfinished developments.

In “some extreme cases”, the Minister of State told planners that “for safety and other reasons”, developers “may have to be compelled to demolish partly completed but unstable or deteriorating developments.”

He also said inspectors would travel the state to identify “badly designed” developments for demolition.

He said “bulldozers won’t be the only solution”. The group would “develop a practical manual” by the end of the summer to be used in “resolving” sites, Mr Cuffe said.

In recent years, a culture of corrupt planning decisions and a compromised banking system fuelled a speculative property bubble, with young home buyers left as “bag holders” when the market collapsed.

In the ensuing financial crisis, the Dublin government has doubled the state’s national debt to fund an eighty billion euro bailout of banks and developers.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan today apologised for any role he had in the lead up to the economic meltdown, largely blamed on Fianna Fail corruption and incompetence.

Lenihan has insisted there were numerous other factors at play in the banking crisis and recession and insisted that Nama would be ruthlessly pursuing those developers who owe money to the banks.

Labour leader Eamonn Gilmore today said he did not favour bulldozing the unwanted properties.

“I think we should try now to find a use for buildings that were put up and which nobody is in. We have a need in this country, for example, for sheltered housing for older people. The Labour Party has long argued, for example, that some of our emigrants, particularly people who emigrated to Britain in the 50s and 60s and who are living in lonely conditions . . . they might like to take the opportunity of coming back home. I think we should try to find some use for the empty estates,” he said, pointing out that there were 60,000 families on local authority housing waiting lists.

Respond, a not-for-profit housing agency, said knocking down such houses and estates should only be a “very last resort”.

The organisation said it was “crucial” that a national audit of all so-called ghost estates and empty properties be conducted before demolition was even considered.

Aoife Walsh of Respond said her organisation was receiving conflicting reports on how many empty properties are located throughout the State.

“It is vital we know exactly how many empty properties there are, where they are located, what condition they are in and what services and transport links are available in the surrounding area,” she said.

Confirmation by Nama’s chief executive that only a third of developers had been paying interest on their loans has raised questions over the relationship between the banks and the developers.

Mr Gilmore said it was proof that Nama was “a mistake” and the business plan it produced was “not accurate”.

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2010 Irish Republican News