New figures revealing an almost five per cent rise in rents in Galway city in the last year calls into question how well the Government is enforcing rent pressure zones, according to assistant CEO of COPE Galway, Martin O'Connor.
Mr O'Connor's comments come after the latest report from property website Daft.ie which found that average rent in the city now stands at €1,363 per month.
He says it is disappointing that asking rents in Galway are continuing to increase. As a result, housing in our city is now beyond what a growing number of people can afford.
"The situation for many families and single people who are homeless is especially challenging as the gap increases between Housing Assistance Payment limits and advertised rents, resulting in many remaining homeless and living in emergency accommodation for extended periods of time.
"The current moratorium on evictions is providing a safeguard at this time. In COPE Galway’s view, this needs to be extended beyond the period of the Level 5 restrictions to prevent a situation where more households find themselves homeless and not being able to afford to rent new homes.
"The impact of the pandemic on the local economy and by extension on the lives of the many in our community is especially concerning at this time. It is important that steps are taken to safeguard against jeopardising their accommodation and housing.
"The fact that the rate of increase in Galway exceeds the maximum four per cent allowable under the rent pressure zones regulations is concerning and gives rise to the question of the adequacy of enforcement of such measures."
CEO of Galway Simon Community, Karen Golden, echoed Mr O'Connor's sentiments saying it was very concerning that Galway's rent rise (4.9 per cent ) was nearly four times the national average of 1.2 per cent.
Ms Golden said; "Over the last four years, rents in Galway city and in Galway county have increased by 42 per cent. There are very few households whose incomes have increased by similar percentages over this time, and many household incomes are now under significant pressure due to Covid-19.
"As the housing and homelessness crises continued to deepen in recent years, we saw the number of people staying in emergency accommodation increasing and more people than ever before coming to Galway Simon for help. Thankfully, with the help of the moratorium on evictions during Covid-19 restrictions, we are seeing a very welcome decrease in the number of people currently in emergency accommodation in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
"However, we are deeply concerned that the economic fallout from the pandemic is causing significant stress for many households and we are worried about the winter months ahead.
"There are still far too many men, women, and children in emergency accommodation during this pandemic and there has been no let up in the number of people seeking support from Galway Simon Community. We are seeing sustained demand for our services."
Figures incredibly alarming says Farrell
Sinn Féin TD for Galway West/South Mayo Mairéad Farrell described the figures as "incredibly alarming and said Government must respond urgently to the worsening rental crisis in the city.
Deputy Farrell said; "This published data shows us that the rental crisis is getting worse. Rents are too high and in many places are continuing to rise. All the while there is no response from the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien.”
"Budget 2021 didn’t include a single measure to protect renters. There was no action to stop rent rises. There was no funding to deliver the volume of affordable cost rental accommodation that our city urgently needs, despite the unsustainably high levels of rent in Galway.
“Housing is still the biggest issue facing my Galway West constituents but it is clear that the Minister for Housing has no idea of what is required to get a grip on the housing crisis.”
In the rest of Galway, rents were 1.1 per cent lower on average in the third quarter of 2020 than a year previously.
The average listed rent is now €937 in the county, up 84 per cent from its lowest point.