People seeking emergency accommodation in Galway rises by 15 per cent

Sinn Féin Galway City East councillor Mairead Farrell.

Sinn Féin Galway City East councillor Mairead Farrell.

People seeking emergency accommodation in Galway rose by 15 per cent towards the end of last year, while 84 per cent of properties available to rent in Galway city are priced beyond the reach of citizens relying on State housing payments.

The 15 per cent figure comes from the Department of Housing’s latest homeless statistics, showing how those seeking emergency accommodation rose from 144 in November to 165 in December. The 84 per cent figure is contained within a Simon Community report, Locked Out of the Market VI, published this week, showing that, of 25 properties available to rent in Galway city, only four were affordable for those on Housing Assistance Payment or rent supplement.

Reacting to the figures, Sinn Féin Galway City East councillor Mairéad Farrell said it makes “absolutely no sense for the large majority of those on HAP and Rent Supplements to be locked out of the rental market, as they just end up being forced in to emergency accommodation”.

She said while increasing the supply of available housing is key in solving the problem in the medium to long term, there are a “number of feasible measures” which can be introduced to “provide immediate relief to those struggling to make rent”.

The councillor described the Government’s plan for the private rental sector as “extremely disappointing”, saying it should have introduced index-linked rent certainty or sufficient security of tenure. She is now calling on the Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, to “speed up the delivery” of social housing and for a review and adjustment every six months of the Rent Supplement and HAP limits to ensure they are in sync with market rents.

According to Cllr Farrell, there are now more than 7,000 people in Department of Housing-funded emergency accommodation across the State. However, this figure does not include adults and children in Tusla-funded domestic violence emergency accommodation; non-Irish nationals in emergency accommodation funded by the New Communities Unit of the Department of Social Protection; or the 400 families in Direct Provision despite having Stamp 4 visas.

The figures follow last week’s confirmation that Galway city is to be designated a Rent Pressure Zone by the Government, meaning increases in rental costs for households will be capped at four per cent per annum for the next three years.

According to Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources and Fine Gael Galway West TD Seán Kyne, the designation “will provide certainty and confidence for households in the private rented accommodation sector in Galway”.

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