With 4,475 applicants on the housing waiting list, Galway now has a "bigger housing crisis" than Dublin and Limerick and the second highest number, in percentage terms, of families and individuals in the State waiting for accommodation.
This is according to Sinn Féin city councillor Mairéad Farrell, following research into the most recent available social housing waiting lists of the State's major local authorities. According to Cllr Farrell, Galway’s 4,475 applications come in at 5.9 per cent of the total population as per the 2011 Census. This is higher than Limerick (4.5 per cent ), Dublin (4.1 per cent ), and Waterford (2.8 per cent ), although below Cork city’s figure of 7.2 per cent.
Cllr Farrell acknowledges that population figures will have "changed somewhat" since the last census, taken four years ago, but she says the trends "will have remained more or less the same", and the overall figures "show clearly that Galway has a proportionately bigger housing crisis, relative to population, than Dublin".
However the situation is not the fault of the Galway City Council, rather one of inadequate Government funding. The council has only enough funds to provide 14 units in Ballymoneen, Knocknacarra. This is despite the Fine Gael-Labour Government announcement in November of a €3.8 billion social housing strategy up to 2020 and a further announcement in April that €1.5 billion of this sum would be invested in building, buying, and leasing.
Furthermore the Ballymoneen Road site was originally intended to have 69 houses. However, despite requests to the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, to release the funding for the entirety of this project, the city council has confirmed it will only be able go to tender for 14 units in September. While these units are part of a major housing construction programme for 1,700 units by 2017, Cllr Farrell said "this means nothing to people who require a home in the immediate term".
She also cited other factors which are contributing to the crisis: "The very significant issue of people in mortgage distress has added to the housing need in the city. This has created an even greater demand for housing in the private sector which, in addition to the demand for student accommodation, has created further pressure on an already crowded market. All of this has exacerbated an already upward pressure on rents."
Cllr Farrell said Sinn Féin has committed to investing €1 billion from the Strategic Investment Fund to build 6,000 additional new homes in 2016 if in government.