At least 15,000 people are now on the Galway City Council's housing waiting list, at a time when the council only has enough money to build 13/14 houses in Knocknacarra, but no permission from the Government to actually build them.
This is according to Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly who was reacting to official figures from City Hall which show that, at the end of June, there were 4,475 households seeking two, three, and four bedroomed homes. Households are not individuals but include couples, families, and siblings. As a result, Cllr Connolly estimates that, at a conservative estimate, this works out at 15,000 people.
Of these housing applicants, Cllr Connolly noted that those on the two bedroomed list are waiting for up to 15 years to be allocated accommodation. Furthermore the 4,475 figure does not include those applicants on a rental accommodation scheme and/or a long term leasing scheme. In this category, the last housing report listed 591 households, of which 472 were in the RAS scheme and 117 households were on long term leases.
The problem is further compounded by the fact the Galway City Council has only enough funds to provide 13 units in Ballymoneen, Knocknacarra. This is despite the Fine Gael-Labour Government announcement in November of a €3.8 billion social housing strategy up to 2020 and a further announcement in April that €1.5 billion of this sum would be invested in building, buying, and leasing. However, Cllr Connolly has pointed out that "not a single extra euro" has been given to Galway City Council.
Both Cllr Connolly and Independent city councillor Mike Cubbard have pointed out that the Ballymoneen Road site was originally intended to have 69 houses. Cllr Cubbard said that despite a plea to the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, to release the funding for the entirety of this project, Galway City Council has confirmed it will only be able go to tender for 13/14 units in September.
Cllr Cubbard also pointed out how some 20 families are currently being housed in hotels, hostels, and B&Bs, despite the fact there are more than 30 properties vacant across the city. The cost of this to the Government has risen throughout 2015; €335 (January ), €1,110 (February ), €6,502 (March ), €8,341 (April ), and €22,200 (May ).
The figures have led Cllr Cubbard to ask how many empty units could have been restored and made habitable for families on the waiting list, with this kind of money. "I note that while Minister Kelly visited a newly refurbished home in The Claddagh recently," said Cllr Cubbard, "he did not meet any of these families who are the people suffering due to his and this Government's lack of investment in Galway’s social housing crisis."
According to Cllr Cubbard many of these families are "forced to vacate hotels during weekends to allow the establishments take bookings and the families move back on a Monday". He said: "Minister Kelly has failed to deliver and allow the council tender for the 69 units on the Ballymoneen Road, and ultimately failed to address the homeless crisis we face."
Rents in Galway 'set to skyrocket'
Cllr Connolly has accused the Government of "actively contributing to a new housing bubble" and of relying on the private sector by the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment to replace the RAS and long term leasing schemes, a payment, she said, that "fundamentally changes housing policy". The HAP scheme is to be rolled out to all local authorities later this year and will mean that, as a matter of housing policy, any tenant renting a private house and receiving a HAP will be considered adequately housed and his/her name removed from the housing waiting list.
"With simply a stroke of a pen and without any discussion," said Cllr Connolly, "and under the illusion of providing social housing, a housing applicant’s right to a local authority house has been removed. In Galway it is inevitable the HAP scheme will actively ensure that rents will continue to skyrocket. Equally worrying is that there will be absolutely no long term security of tenure for tenants."