Close to 200 adults in Galway are now classed homeless according to the figures released recently by the Department of Housing, a situation that is only going to get worse according to the Social Democrats.
According to the Department figures, 189 adults are currently homeless, an increase from 174 in May and 165 in April. The figure for June 2016 was 125. Reacting to the figures, Social Democrats Galway representative Niall Ó Tuathail, called them “shocking” but added, “unfortunately they are neither surprising nor unpredictable”.
Mr Ó Tuathail, who ran in the 2016 general election, gaining a total of 5,278 votes, said not only is there a shortage of available accommodation for people, but also the population is growing, meaning the problem of homelessness will continue into the mid to long term.
He is now calling for more affordable housing to be built in Galway as “the only long-term solution”. He said a way to do this is for Government to raise a fund to directly invest in housing. “This can solve the crisis and be positive for the State’s finances,” he said. “Most of the homes could be sold at an affordable cost to families and long-term rental companies, paying back the majority of the fund. The remaining homes could be used for social housing, with the rent paid by tenants, covering the cost of interest.”
He said for this to happen, Government must “go beyond relying on developers for new housing projects”, and instead set up a dedicated housing agency that would act as a type of “war room” to coordinate the different initiatives needed across Government departments and local authorities.”
Recognising that new homes will take time to build, Mr Ó Tuathail argues that some short-term solutions can help.
“While we wait for new homes to be built, there are things that we can do,” he said. “Our emergency housing services are at breaking point. Government should be increasing funding, and I would encourage the public to donate to organisations like COPE. If anyone has an empty house that needs renovations before renting out, it is possible to get Government funding under the Repair and Lease scheme. Galwegians can also rent out spare rooms to students tax-free under the rent a room scheme. If anyone has any questions about these programmes, we in the Social Democrats would be happy to help.”