A special taskforce charged with increasing the availability of affordable and social housing in Galway is to be established by the Government, following the publication of housing figures which claim that Galway’s two local authorities are among the worst in the country for providing housing.
The Galway Housing Delivery Taskforce will be established by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, and will identify and address issues that are preventing young families and others with housing needs from securing homes.
The membership of the Taskforce will consist of the Chief Executives of Galway City and County Councils, the Directors of Housing and housing department staff at the councils, senior officials from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government as well as a representative of the Approved Housing Body sector.
Local Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton said that the new taskforce would be chaired by Geraldine Tallon – the former secretary general of the Department. She said Minister Eoghan Murphy had given a commitment to prioritise this issue, and Ms Tallon’s appointment was a reflection of the seriousness with which it was being taken.
“The lack of cooperation between both local authorities in Galway and their failure to meet even minimum targets has gone on long enough. I spoke to the Minister recently and he indicated that he would prioritise the issue,” she said.
Ms Tallon is currently the chairperson of the Cork Housing Delivery Task Force, which has supported Cork City Council to deliver 117 percent of its build target, and Cork County Council 126 per cent of its build target.
“This taskforce will not only have a role in ensuring that social housing builds are progressed and homelessness in Galway eliminated, but also monitor use of available land to support the delivery of much needed affordable and private homes,” said Dep Naughton.
She said that this was a very welcome development and has huge positives for Galway. Providing people with social housing when required is an imperative but also leads to less pressure on the rental market and more affordable rents for others.
“Additionally, there is a huge need for more affordable housing both in the city and county. We are currntly in a very difficult situation where it is getting more difficult to rent and to buy at the same time. This new taskforce has the capacity to change that situation, as a similar Taskforce has already done in Cork.
“The Ardaun development, in particular, has stagnated for years and has the capacity to provide thousands of new homes. I will be discussing with the Minister, this week, the importance of prioritising this particular site,” added the Fine Gael TD. “The most galling aspect of Galway’s housing situation is that there is money available from central Government to build houses. The fact that it has been underutilised is not acceptable and I very much welcome the appointment of this new body to oversee a transformation in policy in both local authorities,” concluded Dep Naughton.
FG Chief Whip Minister of State Seán Kyne said last evening that the new Galway Housing Delivery Taskforce will help the local authorities in Galway to deliver housing more quickly and consistently.
“Over the past two years multi-million euro investment has facilitated the building of new homes in the city and county in localities including Ballybrit, Ballinfoile, Ballybane, Castlegar, Circular Road, Corrib Park, Monivea Road and Renmore in the city and Athenry, Letterfrack, Moycullen, Ros an Mhíl, and Roundstone in the county, among others. Despite this Government investment under Rebuilding Ireland for housing projects which are at various stages, it is clear that progress on the delivery of new housing in Galway is too slow.
“The local authorities are supporting thousands of households across Galway through the provision of social homes, the Housing Assistance Payment and other supports. However, there are significant challenges with the supply of housing.
“While Galway County Council has exceeded its new build target last year there is a challenge in terms of increasing the rate of housing acquisitions. Meanwhile, in the city progress is needed on both new builds and acquisitions. “
In Galway, the new Taskforce will identify barriers to housing delivery in Galway. It will work with the local authorities and approved housing bodies to increase and speed up the delivery of new homes and it will review the use of available land for all types of housing including social, affordable and private.
“The Galway Housing Delivery Taskforce will be based on the model in Cork which has helped Cork City and County Councils increase their new build rates to 117 per cent and 126 per cent of their targets respectively. I am confident the new Taskforce can help Galway’s local authorities achieve the same,” he concluded.
In a statement last evening, Galway County Council defended its housing record. Michael Owens, Acting Director of Services, Housing stated that good progress was made in 2018 in exceeding ambitious targets for build and acquisition, allowing the council to deliver 108 new homes of the highest standard in sustainable communities.
“The commitment of Galway County Council to deliver under Rebuilding Ireland is now delivering a real improvement for hundreds of families, with 466 households having their housing needs met with the support of Galway County Council in 2018.”
Mr Owens recognised that there was a lot more work to do for those in need of housing, not least those families experiencing homelessness. He stated that the council looked forward to the support, of the soon to be established, Galway Housing Delivery Task Force, in addressing the significant challenges that remain, noting that the Council remains well placed to deliver 926 new homes by 2021.