A shortage of adequate housing around the county has now seen the situation reach crisis point according to a number of county councillors. Representatives are calling on Galway County Council to reduce the cost of council development levies in order to stimulate construction. It was outlined that the charges are prohibitive to developers and to young couples attempting to build homes in the countryside.
Charges are levies in respect of sewerage, water, recreation and amenities, roads, footpaths and transportation. Tuam councillor and well known developer Tom McHugh said one of the methods the local authority could help the housing shortage is by reducing the development contribution scheme. "The problems people are experiencing accessing adequate housing is one of the most significant issues we have in this county at the moment. We are at the stage where developers are able to build again but the cost of the levies are so high it is not worth their while."
Ballinasloe Electoral Area councillor Dermot Connolly said he had come across instances in East Galway where there had been a desire to go ahead with development but plans had to be shelved because the development charges were simply too high. "This is an opportunity for Galway County Council to row in behind people. We need to do as much as we can to address the rural decline."
Fine Gael's Aidan Donogue outlined that he had been on a well known property site the night before the meeting, and in the whole of County Galway, there were only 308 properties for rent. "We really need to look at our development contribution charges, it is not feasible now for a developer to buy land and build on it. It is a situation that needs to be addressed before it gets worse."
Connemara councillor Seamas Walsh said the charges were totally unfair. "Between water, sewerage, etc, people are paying thousands extra to build a house. We are paying property tax, that is supposed to cover amenity charges, it is in effect double taxation."
Independent representative Thomas O'Curraoin said the levies were making it very difficult for young couples to set up home in rural areas. "A lot of them who have not got a site, must buy a site. We need to be giving our youth the best possible chance. Wages have been cut in half since the boom times, yet the cost of living is rising. Young people are finding it hard to get mortgages. If we let our youth down we are in trouble, young people are the lifeblood of every community."
Renua representative James Charity called for a review of the development contribution scheme, council CEO Kevin Kelly said this was currently under way. He said the costs had already been reduced following a previous review in 2010. "There was a 30 per cent reduction for commercial/industrial builds and 10 per cent for domestic properties. We do not levy the charge anymore for water and sewerage, that is now a matter for Irish Water, so essentially two thirds of the charges are now looked after by them."
Mr Kelly said the development levies were an important source of income for the council. "It must be remembered that these contributions allow us to fund various schemes that there may not be money there for otherwise. It is important that we strike a balance when looking at this issue."