Council housing waiting lists rise to highest level in a decade
By Kernan Andrews
More than 4,500 households are on the Galway City Council list waiting for a home, a situation that has been described as “ shocking” by a local councillor.
Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly was reacting to City Hall’s Housing Quarterly Report which showed that there are now 4,679 households waiting for a home with 3,967 households on this list assessed as requiring a two bed-roomed house.
The majority of households on the waiting list, ie, 3,652 households, fall into the financial category that is unable to purchase their own home. In addition a further 145 housing applications are waiting to be processed and/or inputted into the system.
“This is by far the longest list with applicants waiting for more than 10 years on the west side of the city,” said Cllr Connolly. “The city council’s ability to deal with the crisis has been severely curtailed by Government policy. Under that policy, all funding for the construction of any further council housing has ceased.”
According to Cllr Connolly, the council’s housing department has been instructed that social housing is to be provided by the private sector alone.
“We have a situation where the housing crisis is deepening on a daily basis and the Government’s policy is simply that the market will provide the solution,” said Cllr Connolly. “This is a shocking development in a country where we are all now paying for the effects of an unregulated market.”
City management has confirmed it is following Government policy of short and long term leasing of private houses and/or the handing over of affordable houses to various Housing Associations for short term five year leases.
“This has very serious implications for tenants’ rights but also sets us firmly on the road back to the landlord class,” said Cllr Connolly. “The policy also has serious implications for the council in that none of the rent payable will be going back to it.
“This is a continued Government bail out for private landlords who can avail of the long and short term leasing schemes to have their mortgage paid. The existing Rental Accommodation Scheme now has more than 500 private houses providing short term leases for housing applicants and significantly the owners/landlords are exempt from the €200 levy on second houses!”
Cllr Connolly said it is “vital the Government move away from the short/long term leasing schemes and commit to solving the housing crisis once for all”.
She said Government must fund local authorities to refurbish the “scandalous number” of empty city council houses (now at 80); fund a limited public construction programme; buy additional houses now that the prices have dropped; and explore other ways of dealing with the housing crisis such as through co-operatives on the land banks the council has accumulated.