Ghost estates haunt Ireland after property boom and bust

Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:01pm EDT
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

STONEPARK, Ireland (Reuters) - The advertising catalog promised a new residential development, with a creche, tennis court and a mini golf course, minutes from the bustling center of the Irish town of Longford.

But as the leaking sewerage, pot-holed roads, lack of street lights and abandoned half-built houses around his home testify, the Silver Birches estate is far from what karate teacher John Killane had hoped for his family.

Wiring and abandoned building materials are scattered across the site making the grounds a dangerous playground for his children. Some of his neighbors also complain of rats coming to a nearby pool.

He and his wife say that with the developer in liquidation and with property prices slumping, there is little they can do but wait for help from the local council.

"This, which is a family home, is now slowly but surely turning into a derelict," the 45-year-old Killane said.

"If I were to try and sell my house right now, I'd say I would be laughed off the face of the earth."

With more than half of its 50 houses empty or unfinished, Silver Birches has been dubbed a "ghost estate" -- one of 620 residential developments around Ireland that are a haunting legacy of the former Celtic Tiger's property boom and bust.

After two years of austerity, Ireland still faces a slow climb out of recession as it tries to deal with the fallout of a crash that left an estimated oversupply of at least 100,000 housing units and the cost of rescuing its exposed lending sector mounts.   Continued...

<p>Property developer Johnny Owens does odd jobs around his practically deserted housing development, in Mullingar, Ireland, July 28, 2010. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton</p>