The needs of tourism, and the ability of landlords to avoid restrictions on short term rentals, must not come before people who live in Galway city - especially those struggling to find accommodation.
This is the view of People Before Profit's Galway West election candidate, Joe Loughnane, who is calling on the Galway City Council to "clamp down" on the short-term Airbnb rentals in the city.
His call follows CNN’s recent inclusion of Galway on its list of Top 20 tourist destinations in the world. While he said the inclusion is welcome as it provides good publicity for Gawlay, and that tourism is important as it means " jobs and money for local businesses", there is a worry that the need to provide for any upswing in tourist numbers could result in "an increase in large-scale Airbnb rentals in the city", with the result that there will be less accommodation for individuals and families "who need a long term place to stay".
According to Loughnane, of the more than 7,000 short term Airbnb properties advertised around the State, close to 1,800 are in Galway. However it is understood that only three landlords have applied to register their property in the city. This could mean there are landlords who have not registered their properties with City Hall as a way to "avoid restrictions" on short term rentals.
"We’re not against individuals and families using a spare room for a bit of extra income," he said, "the problem arises when you have landlords with multiple properties on a site." He is now calling on the council to "start looking more closely" at AirBnB in the city and to make sure it "doesn’t get any further out of hand”.
Loughnane's calls echo those made recently by the Green Party's Galway West General Election candidate, Cllr Pauline O'Reilly, who went so far as to claim that Airbnbs were "destroying the city".
She said that while Airbnbs reduce the available housing stock, they also impact on the urban environment. "People are being forced to live in areas away from work and school," she said. "That means that we are all travelling further and further to schools, to work, and to recreation. We are seeing an emptying out of locals living in the city. This has an environmental impact and an impact on our wellbeing."