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Real estate crashes in Spain and Ireland have led to towns that were supposed to be vibrant suburban paradises for young people becoming one of the most obvious testaments to the countries’ boom gone bust. Such modern-day ghost towns have become a familiar landscape around Spain and Ireland, abandoned shells left to slowly decay.
The property boom in Spain has left an estimated 1.5 million unsold new homes. That doesn't count developments where building simply stopped. There are more than 33,000 unoccupied homes on Ireland’s ghost estates, according to a report from the Department of the Environment. But as house prices continue to fall and unemployment keeps rising, it may be years before these ghost towns show signs of life.
By Bianca Schlotterbeck
Posted 1 May 2012
Unfinished construction work is seen at the South Central development in Sandyford, near Dublin. Over 600 estates lie unfinished across the country, where once land was the most expensive in Europe, according to the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis. The buildings may be used to attract companies to areas by providing them with houses for employees, or handed over to universities or patients leaving hospitals Others simply may be demolished.
A road sign stands between blocks of empty apartments at Francisco Hernando village at the Sesena real estate development near Madrid. Out of 13,000 apartments that were meant to make up the development of Sesena only 5,100 were built, many of which are now uninhabited and with those Spaniards who bought them as investments trying to sell them off for huge losses.
One is example is Juan Carlos Caballero, who bought an apartment in Sesena in 2008 for 185,000 euros alongside his father, who had previously bought one. Both thought housing prices would continue to rise as they had since the mid-1990s. The Spanish property crash has left them stuck in developments without access to drugstores or good transport links to Madrid. The only restaurants are open just a few days in the week on weekends when there are enough clients to justify operating.
There are 483 complete but vacant homes in County Galway. With over a quarter of the abandoned, unfinished housing estates having been identified as hazardous for residents, there are concerns that uncovered manholes, open pits and potentially unstable buildings could pose a public safety hazard.
Close to the Spanish capital of Madrid lies the Yebes development, 9,000 apartments and small houses that were supposed to be built in a country setting next to a high-speed train so workers could get down town in under 20 minutes. However only 1,500 were finished before the developer went broke.
Only 3,000 people now live there compared to the projected 30,000 and government officials never launched the train service. The mayor of Yebes, Joaquin Ormazabal, told Associated Press that "the station is built, the trains are bought but they never started running."
The 240,000-euro home he bought would now sell for half of the price. The population of Yebes is increasing somewhat as banks sell off foreclosed properties at low prices, but Ormazabal says it could be decades before the rest of the land is developed. “Right now no one is thinking about building anything in Spain,” he said.
Unfinished homes sit empty on an abandoned housing development in Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim. Hardly a town or village has been unaffected by ghost developments in Leitrim, the least populated county in Ireland. Lakeside villages with perhaps just 200 residents now have 50 empty "dream homes." Many of the houses aren't for sale any more, even if a buyer could be found. Some of the houses were sold by developers who went bust before they could be completed.
Nowhere are the scars of Ireland’s decade-long housing bubble and subsequent financial collapse more visible than this market town of 10,000 people, 75 miles west of Dublin in the Irish Midlands. Around 19 “ghost” estates in County Longford, the bulk located on the outskirts of the town, contain almost 1,000 empty dwellings. Ireland's National Asset Management Agency is turning debtors into landlords as it seeks to recoup the 32 billion euros ($42 billion) it paid for commercial mortgages after the real-estate market collapsed.