More than 50 social housing units planned for Knocknacarra will not now be built until 2019 owing to demands from Department of Housing officials "placing blockages in the way" of what are "badly needed houses".
No social housing units have been built in Galway city over the past six years, a situation that will continue until 2017 when 14 houses at the Ballymoneen Road, Knocknacarra, will finally begin construction. The 55 units planned for an adjacent site will be delayed until 2019 as the Department wants to add another five houses on the site.
Independent city councillor and chair of the Galway City Council housing committee, Declan McDonnell has called the situation “a disgrace”, especially with "more than 4,700 families" on the city's housing waiting list. "It is ridiculous," he said, "all this will do is hold everything up. At a time when Housing Minister Simon Coveney is saying he will do everything to fast-track houses, his officials are just placing blockages in the way."
In September 2015, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government granted permission to the Galway City Council to build 14 houses on Ballymoneen Road. Council officials were also given verbal approval for another 55 houses on an adjoining site, for which written confirmation was expected by that December.
However it is only in recent weeks - nine months after the original permission was granted - that tenders have been received for the 14 houses. Furthermore, the Department has now instructed City Hall to carry out a feasibility study on the site planned for the 55 houses to see if another five houses can be included on that site.
Cllr McDonnell said this leaves Galway in a situation where "not a single social house will have been built from 2010 to 2017". He also noted that with only 69 social houses being over the next three years, "there is no hope of a dent being made on the waiting list.” He pointed out that the current wait for people on the lists is 13 years in the westside and 11 on the eastside.
He said ideas were put forward that "some of the slack" would be taken up by the voluntary sector, with an estimated 518 houses provided in the next four years by Cluid, Respond, and the local authority. However the councillor pointed out that “500-odd as against a waiting list of almost 5,000 is just 10 per cent of the waiting list".
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish is now tabling a Dáil question to Minister Coveney, demanding answers on why his Department is "effectively holding up" the building of the 55 "badly needed social houses".
“I have asked the Minister to explain why a barrier is being placed in the way of these badly needed houses at such a crucial time," said Dep Grealish, "and what steps he plans to take to solve the crisis in Galway and other cities outside of Dublin."