More than 15,000 people are waiting for a home in Galway city, but Government Housing Policy is doing nothing but copperfastening inequality and insecurity of tenure into the system, representing the "most fundamental change in housing policy since the foundation of the State".
This is the view of Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly who also accused the Government of "actively contributing to a new housing bubble" by "ignoring" the escalating housing problem in Galway and across the State. She pointed out that only 14 housing units are under construction this year.
Galway city is facing a number of very serious problems on the housing front with the Galway City Council's most recent housing report confirming that the households on the waiting list is contining to rise, with the current figure at 4,474 households. Cllr Connolly argues that at "a conservative estimate", this means c15,000 people waiting for a home. Of these applicants, some, particularly those on the two-bedroom list Cllr Connolly has noted, are waiting for up to 15 years to be allocated a two bed roomed house/apartment.
Moreover, the 4,474 figure does not include those applicants who are on a Rental Accommodation Scheme and or Long Term Leasing Scheme, and whose names have now been removed from the waiting list as they are considered adequately housed. In this category, at the last housing report the number given was 591 households. Of that, 472 households were in the RAS scheme and 117 households were on the long term leasing scheme.
Cllr Connolly said further problems include city council housing staff being "stretched to capacity trying to deal with the escalating homeless crisis" as landlords for pull out of and/or refuse to participate in the RAS and LTL schemes. She added that the policy of relying on the private sector, by the introduction of what will be known as the Housing Assistance Payment, to replace the RAS and LTL schemes "fundamentally changes housing policy".
This scheme is currently being rolled out in all local authorities, and according to Cllr Connolly, it means any tenant renting a private house and receiving this payment will be considered adequately housed, and their name removed from the housing waiting list. This she feels effectively removes a housing applicant’s right to a local authority.
"It is inevitable," said Cllr Connolly, "that the HAP scheme will actively ensure rents in Galway will continue to skyrocket. Furthermore and equally worrying is that there will be absolutely no long term security of tenure for tenants." She pointed out that these same concerns were also outlined by the National Economic and Social Council in its 2014 paper, Review of Irish Social and Affordable Provision.