Use vacant properties to solve city’s housing crisis, urges local charity

Martin O'Connor

Martin O'Connor

Vacant properties must be brought back into use in a bid to solve the housing crisis in the city, according to the assistant chief executive of a social services organisation which provides services for homeless people.

Martin O’Connor of COPE Galway said it is vital that housing stock in the city is fully utilised at a time of accommodation shortage.

He stated that measures incentivising property owners to put vacant units into use and taxes to penalise them for not doing so are required.

Welcoming recent Government policy initiatives to bring unoccupied properties back into use, he said this move offers hope for the many people at risk of and experiencing homelessness.

He outlined that the findings of the property website Daft.ie’s rental price report for the second quarter of 2017 - which shows a 10 per cent increase in rent levels for Galway city in the past year - highlights the need for additional social housing.

The local charity says that services for the homeless are struggling to address the unprecedented homelessness crisis in the city. This is particularly evident in recent months with the growth in rough sleeping and is resulting in growing numbers of families and individuals, who become homeless, remaining in emergency accommodation for extended periods.

COPE Galway reports that there are currently 46 families - four couples and 42 single person households - in emergency accommodation. A further 15 people who were rough sleeping sought assistance from the charity on Monday.

“It’s very clear to us the private rental market does not offer a solution to the crisis we are struggling to deal with,” said Mr O’Connor. “This Daft.ie rental report, which highlights the chronic shortage of supply and ever increasing rent levels in Galway, is further proof, if proof were needed, that the private rental market is in serious difficulty and that those most negatively impacted are families and individuals who cannot afford the rents being asked for. “

COPE Galway is concerned that the situation may deteriorate even further with the advent of autumn.

“While the Daft.ie report highlights the increasing cost of rent up to the end of June as well as the lack of properties available for rent nationwide on August 1, there is now the added pressure of new and returning students looking for accommodation for September which is making the situation much more challenging in Galway city,” he said.

In a recent pre-budget submission to Minister Paschal O’Donohoe, COPE Galway highlighted the need for the Government to provide further resources to local housing authorities and approved housing bodies so that they are better placed to build the new social housing necessary to address the needs of homeless people.

“The Government has an opportunity in Budget 2018 to take the necessary steps to speed up the building of additional social housing. This has to be a priority.”

Any offers of accommodation at a rent level within current State subsidies can be directed to Martin O’Connor at (091 ) 778750.

In 2016 COPE Galway worked with 649 households presenting with issues relating to homelessness - 438 of these were single person households and 211 were families. Homelessness remains at crisis levels in Galway and the number of families becoming homeless continues to increase (up 27 per cent on 2015 ).

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