The term refers to empty, usually abandoned, homes in developments in Ireland that remain unfinished.  These empty structures were in stages of being built when the housing boom in Ireland crashed in 2007.  A report, in 2010, by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis defined a ghost estate as a development of ten or more houses where 50% of the properties are either vacant or under-construction.  The report estimated that were over 600 ghost estates in Ireland.  Estimates of the number of empty houses range into the hundreds of thousands.

Even as some counties had an excess of empty, unsold houses in 2006, the local authorities continued to grant planning permission for even more houses, a failure of the planning system most pronounced in a number of border counties including Roscommon, Leitrim and Donegal.  The national government was also culpable for providing generous tax incentives for more and more developments, and banks gave out mortgages with 100% financing.

Proposals have been made to convert the empty private houses into social housing but, it is claimed, funds are lacking to finish the houses or provide the infrastructure, e.g., water and sewers, necessary to make the sites livable.  Some people have taken to surreptitiously planting trees in ghost estates as a way of returning the sites to natural or pre-development conditions.


Some further ideas to explore on Ghost Estates:

Identify the nearest ghost estate to you and develop proposals for using those houses for some public benefit.  Include in your analysis the cost to finish the houses, the legal ownership of the houses, the needs for houses in the area, and the means for raising funds to implement your plan. 

If one option being considered in your area is to tear down the houses, what use can be made of the site and who should control that decision – the developer, the local authorities, the banks or NAMA?  What should be the role of the local community in such decisions?



“Booms, Busts, Ghosts and NAMA: Irish Planning at its Worst,” in the Reports section of irish environment (December 2010).

Rob Kitchin, Justin Gleeson, Karen Keaveney and Cian O’Callaghan, A Haunted Landscape: Housing and Ghost Estates in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, published by the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, National University of Ireland Maynooth (July 2010).

“Guerilla gardening and ghost estates,”

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