Not only is the Government building a “small number” of houses over six years to deal with the current crisis, but it is determined to “copper-fasten” insecurity of tenure as an integral part of its housing policy.
This is the view of Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly who said that while the Government’s proposal to increase social housing is welcome, the means proposed to do it give rise to “serious concerns”.
Some 90,000 households are on housing waiting lists throughout the State, with Galway having a figure of 3,962 households - an increase of 343 since March. According to Cllr Connolly, this works out at between 12,000 to 15,000 people, some of whom are waiting up to 12 years for a home.
As a result the Government is proposing to build 35,000 social housing units over six years, but Cllr Connolly says that the fine detail of the recent proposals announced by Environment Minister Alan Kelly show the actual figure of social housing units to be acquired by direct build, purchase, or refurbishment is actually 24,800. The remaining 11,000 units will be acquired by leasing private property. Cllr Connolly said this will result in “a relatively small number of social houses given the magnitude of the existing housing crisis”.
Cllr Connolly is also very concerned that a “fundamental plank” of the new housing policy is to rely on landlords. She says the new proposals “give free reign to the free market” and “actively assist landlords” by paying rents directly to them with taxpayers’ money.
She said a variety of problems will also be unleashed through the Housing Assistance Payment scheme, which 75,000 households will come under. As a result, if a private house is available under the HAP scheme, the housing applicant/family will have no choice but to take the unit on offer and also see their name removed from the housing waiting list.
Cllr Connolly has accused the Government of “enshrining a policy of discrimination” in relation to social housing allocation and “copper-fastening” insecurity of tenure as “an integral part of Government housing policy”.
“Housing applicants will now be treated differently from each other depending on what unit is available when the local authority housing official reaches their name on the list,” she said.
She also pointed out that under the guise of Housing Assistance Payment, the Government is proposing to pay rent directly to landlords as a solution to the crisis.
Meanwhile, Labour Galway senator Lorraine Higgins is calling on the Galway County Council to apply “without delay” for its share of Minister Kelly’s €3.8 billion social housing fund.
“New rules put in place by Minister Kelly,” she said, “mean the county council will take a strong leading role in social housing provision in Galway, where previously it was mainly the job of private operators.”