More gobbledegook on housing, says TD

A secret report into housing across Galway has revealed a shocking failure of the City Council to reach even half its build target for social housing for 2022.

A chairperson’s report from the Galway Social Housing Taskforce, which looks at housing across the city and county, highlights Galway City Council delivered only 150 new social houses last year, or just 46% of its 2022 target. Meanwhile, Galway County Council hit a thumping 97% of its target with delivery of 224 new social homes.

Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly highlighted to the Dáil last week that the taskforce’s figures do not tally with the Department of Housing’s own numbers, and called out Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “stop the gobbledegook doublespeak” when he attempted to defend the government’s housing policy.

“Galway’s housing crisis is a microcosm of the country, it [demonstrates] the utter failure of your [government’s] policy,” Dep Connolly scolded Fine Gael’s Varadkar at Leaders Questions last week.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Dep Connolly highlighted the unnecessary secrecy surrounding the report, explaining it took nine months to receive a copy of the report – including four months when it was before the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien (FF ) for review.

She said high hopes for the taskforce to identify improved housing delivery streams across Galway have been dashed, claiming the “well meaning” taskforce chairperson’s report “adds yet another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy [for housing] in Galway. We needed a masterplan linking up all the parcels of public land – such as around Ceannt Station, the Docks, Sandy Road and the Dyke Road. The State’s Land Development Agency seems only interested in maximising the value of public land with building ‘premium accommodation,’ not public housing.”

“This has absolutely no basis in fact,” responded a spokesman for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

“The Task Force has no role whatsoever in identifying, assessing or approving new public housing projects for Galway. The identification of new public housing proposals remains the role of the Councils themselves, supplemented by Approved Housing Bodies that work with the Councils.” AHBs – also known as housing associations – are independent, not-for-profit organisations which provide affordable rented housing for particular groups, such as homeless people or older people.

In a statement, the Minister said he had shared the report with taskforce members – county and city managers, housing officials, Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs ), and “public representatives”. At time of going to press, no city or county councillors contacted by The Advertiser had received the report.

In a written statement, the Department acknowledged that “traditionally, [AHBs] had not delivered housing as strongly in Galway as in other counties,” but that taskforce members had now met with some of the largest AHBs in the country which will assist Galway’s two local authorities to meet the government’s target of almost 3,000 new social houses across Galway by 2026.

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” says Galway City Councillor Níall McNelis (Lab ). “This is all we expect from the current minister. Galway is yet again a third-class citizen for government with city and county the two large local authorities with the least funding for housing. Telling us to rely more on charity to provide our neediest with shelter - is an insult. We are in a crisis. Every single problem communicated to me by my constituents is a housing issue.”

In her report, Housing Taskforce chair Geraldine Tallon indicates that the Pandemic years 2020-21, Covid restrictions, labour shortages in construction, poor staff retention in council housing units, Brexit, price inflation, material shortages and the war in Ukraine all negatively affected social housing provision for Galway.

She noted particular issues for Galway city over the county, including cold weather response for homeless people, increasing homeless presentation from Traveller families, and noted that “legislation may be required to clarify entitlement to social housing supports for the Roma communities.”

 

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