THE number of 'ghost' housing estates stands at 2,700 -- four times higher than thought, according to the first official government estimate.
This means that taxpayers face an even bigger bill for the mess caused by developers and the banks.
Ghost estates are defined as those that contain unfinished, unoccupied, or partially occupied house and apartment blocks.
The first government-ordered audit of how many such estates exist has now revealed the extent of the problem. A previous estimate, earlier this year, calculated there were 621.
Many of the estates in the new total of 2,700 are located in the midlands and north-west, the Irish Independent has learnt.
The report outlines six categories of properties,ranging from those which are 'turn key''-- finished but unoccupied-- to estates where only preliminary groundwork has taken place. Other estates are partially occupied, but have half-built houses and apartments which are boarded up.
One-in-four unoccupied buildings in ghost estates pose serious safety risks because sewers have been left open, water is contaminated and building sites are not secured properly.