With more than 74 empty houses and 3,619 households on the housing waiting list, the recent allocation of €415,000 for the city, although welcome, is a drop in the ocean with more needed to tackle the lack of housing which is at crisis point.
The Minister for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan, recently announced funding of almost €860,000 to Galway city and county councils for the upgrade of social housing. The City Council is to receive €415,000 of this funding, which will be used to upgrade 21 units with an average cost per unit of almost €20,000. The remaining funding of €444,000 will be used by Galway County Council to upgrade 30 units, with the average cost per unit of almost €15,000. The funding is part of a €15 million investment in vacant local authority housing across the country with the view to reducing the long waiting lists.
However, Fine Gael local election candidate for Galway City East, John Walsh, says although the Government also recently provided €2.5 million for the construction of 15 new homes in the city “a more immediate and comprehensive solution is required for this problem”. Referring to the latest quarterly housing report from the City Council’s housing department, Mr Walsh says it is “unacceptable” that 3,600 families are on the city waiting list and that getting these houses up to “habitable standard and using them to reduce the waiting list must remain a priority of the city council”.
Welcoming the start of reburbishment works earlier this month on two houses in the Claddagh which have been empty for seven years, Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly also describes the number of empty houses and the waiting list as “unacceptably high”. Noting that there are families on the housing waiting list on the west side of the city for up to 11 years, Cllr Connolly questions why empty houses cannot be refurbished and turned over in a matter of weeks. She has repeatedly called on the city manager Brendan McGrath to take a hands-on approach and sort this matter out once and for all by assigning a specific housing maintenance crew to deal with the vacant houses.
According the the Quarterly Housing Report 74 houses/apartments were vacant as of March 2014 with some vacant for periods of between three, four, and five years with two houses empty in the Claddagh since 2007 and 2008 awaiting major refurbishment.
“It has now been confirmed that funding has been made available to refurbish empty houses at St Ignatius and St Nicholas Road in the Claddagh. It is also welcome news that 13 new council units are to go ahead on the Ballymoneen Road, but given that 3,619 households are on the waiting list which equates to more than 10,000 people at a conservative estimate, 13 units remain a drop in the ocean and the housing situation is at crisis point,” said Cllr Connolly, who added that vacant houses not only reduce the amenity of the residential area but also affects rental income to the city council.
Cllr Connolly urged the Goverment to give a commitment to providing an imaginative and sustainable building construction programme in order “to furnish homes for our people”.