Ireland is opting for bulldozers rather than bankers as it starts to clear the legacy of the housing boom whose collapse brought the economy to its knees. About 1,850 housing developments, unfinished after the bubble burst in 2008, pockmark the Irish landscape, according to government figures. This week, Irelandâ€™s National Asset Management Agency, the state agency set up in 2009 to purge banks of their most toxic commercial property loans, started the destruction of an apartment block for the first time.
â€œThereâ€™ll be some places where the most sensible decision that can be made will be to demolish,â€ Housing Minister Jan Oâ€™Sullivan said in an interview in her Dublin office on July 10. â€œIf nobody wants to live in them, then the most practical thing to do possibly will be to demolish what is there.â€
The so-called ghost estates are the most visible scar left by Western Europeâ€™s worst real-estate crash, which led Ireland to follow Greece in seeking international financial help. In all, about 15 percent of Irish homes are vacant, the countryâ€™s statistics agency estimates.
The death of a two-year-old who wandered into an unfinished development in February underscored the problem of leaving the estates empty. The building in Longford in central Ireland was bulldozed on July 18 on safety grounds after a sewage-related explosion in a home on the site earlier this year.
â€œThe people that bought into a dream inherited a nightmare,â€ said Peggy Nolan, a local lawmaker in Longford. â€œThe taxpayers have paid enough, as far as I am concerned, shame on these developers.â€