The Fine Gael/Labour Government has been accused of abandoning all pretence of providing a home for people in Galway city where there are now 3,597 households on the housing waiting list, an estimated 10,000 people have been on the list for periods of up to 12 years.
At a special meeting of the Galway City Council on Monday when the housing report was presented, Independent councillor Catherine Connolly made the comments while expressing her dismay at the “destruction of the basic human right to housing” in the city.
According to the report “the city is experiencing a lack of supply of new housing units across the social spectrum” and “with rents on an increasing curve landlords are in a position of strength”, with recipients of rent supplement adversely affected. With the population of the city projected to increase from 76,778 (Census 2011 ) to 80,509 in 2018 there is a requirement for 2,635 units from 2015 to 2018. Of the 3,597 households currently on the waiting list (192 applications are currently being processed ), 44 per cent are households dependent on rent supplement (1,577 ). A total of 3,040 households require one and two bedroom accommodation.
The figures show that “at a conservative estimate at least 10,000 people are waiting for a home with an average waiting time of six to seven years on the east of the city and 11 to 12 years for a two bed on the west of the city,”said Cllr Connolly, who since the meeting has received information that one applicant waiting for a two bed has been on the list since early 2001, and there are 11 other applicants ahead of this particular application. It was also confirmed that other than a proposal to build 11 units in Knocknacarra by 2015 no other local authority houses will be constructed.
“The only game in town according to Government policy is to rent on the private unregulated market and the Government will pay the rent directly to the landlord. Up to now we have had the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS ), the Long Term Leasing scheme, and the Government are now bringing in new legislation the Housing [Miscellaneous Provisions] Bill 2014 to allow for [among other provisions] a new scheme of Housing Assistance Payments (HAP ),” said Cllr Connolly, who angered by the worsening housing crisis, said “we have returned to the days of the landlord class” where they are given security of payments together with the option to take back the house at any time from the tenant.
Further criticism came from Independent Declan McDonnell who accused the council executive of “not admitting the schemes are not working at all”, “that they are not worth the paper they are written on because they can’t be implemented”. “There are more than 3,400 on the list, many of them waiting for two bed acommodation but there are none available. They can’t find property, and the reason that landlords are not interested is because of tax. We need to lift the embargo landlords are putting on this,” he said.
A motion proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Anna Marley was later passed condemning the current government strategy that is administed by local authorities through RAS and the Long Term Leasing scheme and relies heavily on an expensive and unregulated private rental sector. The motion also called on the city council management to write to the Department of the Environment and request a signficant financial investment in social housing stock to reflect the magnitude of the housing crisis. Cllr Marley warned: “Galway city’s housing crisis will not go away without significant investment in social housing that leads to increased housing supply.”
Chief executive Brendan McGrath said the council did have concerns over the resources needed to run the new HAP scheme and the potential increase of homelessness with landlords increasing rents and putting added pressure on tenants. Mr McGrath concluded that a proposal needed to be put together and he would welcome a tenant purchase scheme that would encourage people to become house owners.
Labour city councillor Niall McNelis says more than 150 NAMA houses across Galway city could be used to provide social housing.
He is urging the council to “continue in its efforts to provide social housing from units sourced by NAMA”.
The number of units in the city, deemed by NAMA as being suitable for social housing, is 152 and to date, 60 such units have been provided for this purpose.