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 as the cost of rescuing its exposed lending sector mounts.
The government set up a “bad bank,” the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), to cleanse commercial banks of shaky property loans worth a nominal 81 billion euros (US$106 billion).
It says the body, which would eventually become the country’s biggest landlord via the non-performing loans it buys, is an essential tool to clean up the stricken housing and banking sectors. It aims to make a profit over its 10-year lifespan.
While NAMA still has to finish transferring the loans and conduct an inventory of properties, it is still unclear if stalled projects can be rescued or what avenues of recompense, if any, may be available to buyers such as Killane. The government is considering options like social housing, but it could also wipe the slate clean and bulldoze some estates.
“The ones closer to Dublin will probably be occupied over the next few years, but I think particularly in some counties far away from Dublin, we’ll see hundreds of units vacant for a long period of time,” said Ciaran Cuffe, a minister of state whose portfolio includes planning, heritage and horticulture.
Ireland enjoyed a decade-long property boom when developers were lured by generous loans from banks to build houses on cheap land to serve a stream of workers who, rather than pay sky-high prices in Dublin, preferred to pay slightly less and commute.
But the 2007 bursting of the bubble plunged Ireland into its worst recession on record, leaving an estimated 300,000 unsold or unfinished residential houses. Cash-strapped developers abandoned projects still in progress, leaving owners of overvalued homes surrounded by bleak, deteriorating sites.
Almost 200,000 homeowners are facing negative equity, when mortgage holders have to pay off loans exceeding the value of their homes, by the end of this year, official figures show.
“I am stuck with a house that nobody would ever consider buying and I will be in debt for the rest of my life,” said one housewife on a “ghost estate,” declining to be identified.
The mother of two said she would be lucky to get 200,000 euros for a home for which she paid 320,000 euros three years ago, but with houses in her isolated complex badly finished, she hardly sees buyers lining up.
“I feel I have been conned,” she said.
With house prices still falling, cut-price house sales are becoming a feature of the severely depressed housing market as more construction companies go into receivership.
The pace of decline in house prices slowed to 1.7 percent in the second quarter, a survey showed on Thursday, while prices have fallen 35 percent since the peak at the end of 2006.
The National Institute for Regional Spatial Analysis, which advises the government, on Thursday called for an independent inquiry into the “catastrophic failure” of the planning system, like the one carried out into Ireland’s banks.
It said planning failures contributed to the property bubble and crisis, with planning driven by demands of developers and speculators, and ambitious localized growth plans, while tax incentives encouraged the excesses.
It said one in six houses in Ireland is now uninhabited for the majority of the year.
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit