Five thousand is real housing waiting list figure, claims Walsh

The Government’s duty is not to support dead and zombie banks or to protect developers, but to provide homes for the most vulnerable in society.

This is the view of Fine Gael councillor Brian Walsh, who believes there are up to 5,000 applicants seeking homes from the Galway City Council, and that funding must be provided to build social and affordable houses in the city.

At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors discussed the quarterly Housing Progress Report 2010, which showed that 3,440 applicants are currently on the housing waiting list - with a further 413 waiting to be assessed.

The report shows that this figure is an increase from 2,907 applicants in March and 3,024 in June.

“When the waiting list figure and those waiting to be assessed are taken together it means the housing waiting list is at 3,853,” Cllr Walsh told the Galway Advertiser, “and is increasing all the time.”

However Cllr Walsh regards the 3,853 figure as an official statistic only and he believes that the real number is around 5,000. He bases this figure on his experience of the waiting list procedures, his work with constituents, and anecdotal evidence.

“I believe 3,853 is on the lower end,” he said. “Not a week goes by without me having to contact the council on behalf of someone who thought they were on the waiting list, and who wants to know how their application is progressing, only to find they are no longer on the list.”

Cllr Walsh says such individuals may have been in line for a house but, if they changed address and the council were not informed, or if they did not respond to an offer of a house, their name may have been removed or gone missing from the list.

“With the amount of calls I get from people who thought they were on the waiting list, I believe the real figure of people seeking accommodation from the Galway City Council is nearer to 5,000,” he said.

According to Cllr Walsh, City Hall had intended to build 500 social and affordable houses this year but the vast majority have not been constructed due to lack of funds from the Government, and he believes the Government’s plans to try to provide housing through rental schemes instead is a “short-sighted” approach to what is a long-term problem.

“This is a scandal,” he said. “The Government needs to provide money so the council can build social and affordable housing to meet the numbers on the list.”

Cllr Walsh has little time for those who would say that in the current economic circumstances the money is not there to provide for such programmes.

“People may accuse me of being populist saying this, but the reality is that there has never been a better time to do this, with land and house prices the lowest they have ever been,” he said. “The Government have money for Anglo Irish Bank, which we will never see again, and money to bail out developers in NAMA, so why will it not provide money to help the most vulnerable in society

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