Empty Houses All Around the World: Construction for the Sake of Construction

Inequality of housing provision is not news. However, with the level of global urbanization and the planetary expansion of inequalities in urban space, it became more visible all around the world. This manifestation also provides some clues for the reasons behind this urban problem.

One example is the Ghost Estates of Ireland, where the building boom magesticaly bursted.

Built with visions of suburban prosperity in more optimistic times, the empty shells of former dream homes dot the countryside among piles of construction rubble and fallen-down fences. Economic highs and lows have led to abandonments of entire villages all over the world, from China to the Mediterranean, but Ireland is among the nations that was particularly hard-hit. 

Ghost Estates of Ireland 1Image Credit: weburbanist

Image Credit:  valérie anex

Photographer valérie anex documented the condition of Ireland’s ghost towns (click here for details). These new build and sometimes unfinished estates present a picture of commodification of housing in our urban age.

The story repeats itself in Spanish towns. La Muela is one of the ghost towns in Spain, which are a result of building boom and burst in this country.

“There are so many empty houses; thank god people haven’t gone in like in the big cities, where there are squatters,” says Victor Canales, 49, as he gestures at a shuttered building across from his row house. Canales brought his family from Zaragoza to La Muela in 1999, attracted by the quality of life of the small town, which then had about 2,500 residents.

Or it repeats itself as an empty housing project near Madrid, Valdeluz.

The construction giant Reyal Urbis invested $1.6 million in the construction of Valdeluz—it would be their “jewel in the crown,” a dormitory town utopia 15 minutes from Guadalajara and less than an hour from Madrid—a place for the comfortable middle-class to rest and play and raise their children amidst lush greenery, away from the dirt, grime and clutter of the capital.


Image Credit: Newsweek

By 2013, there were new-build and unsold 750 000 housing units in Spain!

Yes, that is the real figure!

The probem is far from being a European-centric one. China is notorous with empty estates, and even cities. An example is the Chinese city of Ordos. Ordos presents a striking example of constructing for the sake constrcution.

Ordos, an empty new-built-city.

It’s been called the Dubai of northern China, showered with wealth, packed with public infrastructure and located near to precious natural resources in a region plagued by water-supply troubles. But the urban center of Ordos City, known as ‘Kangbashi New Area’, has been mostly deserted for five years. Kangbashi isn’t a ghost town due to economic issues, contamination or any other common cause of suchabandonment – the government simply can’t convince people to move there.

Ordos, China: A Modern Ghost Town Meant as home for one million people the Kangbashi district remains nearly empty five years after construction began

Ordos, China: A Modern Ghost Town Meant as home for one million people the Kangbashi district remains nearly empty five years after construction began

Image Credit: Michael Christopher Brown

The cases present different faces of commodification of urban space for the sake of commodification in our age.

The cities, estates, projects, … are built for the sake of construction. Space consumption may be the highest level in our century.

While millions of empty houses stand as a statue for the contemporary level of spatial inequalities, millions are struggling unbearable housing conditions or living on the streets.


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