A major report released this week claimed that Waterford city had six ‘ghost’ housing estates which qualify under the study’s ‘empty’ or ‘abandoned’ criteria because of their high number of unoccupied homes.

According to the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis, County Waterford has nine such estates, Kilkenny has 21, South Tipperary 17 and Wexford 24.

Most of the estates in question are new developments which have failed to sell while there are also suggestions that some developers are keeping houses off the market in the hope that NAMA will value them higher than the current going price and take them off their hands.

Nationwide, Nirsa believes there are more than 300,000 houses now lying empty around the country. Cork has the highest number of estates with unoccupied homes (96) while Dublin has 58.

However, the situation will be rectified much sooner in cities such as Waterford where high density populations will absorb the surplus over a period of time.

The analysis suggests pockets of the North-West and Midlands are worst hit by a housing glut that will take years to sell off. Largely rural counties such as Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Sligo have the highest number of partially built and semi-vacant housing estates when measured against their populations. Their relative distance from major cities is expected to compound their oversupply problem for the foreseeable future.

Professor Rob Kitchin of the NUI Maynooth-based Nirsa, which advises the government, estimates that approximately half of the estates will be taken over by NAMA which will then have to decide whether to sell, lease, maintain, hold, develop or demolish them.

He believes many estates in rural areas will simply be left as monuments to the property crash as nobody will be willing to pay the cost of knocking them down and restoring the land for agricultural use.

The worst-hit area in the country is Leitrim where 2,945 homes were built during the boom despite population projections that showed just 588 homes were actually needed.