The fact that a housing applicant on the waiting list since 2002, has never been offered either a council house or a house from a voluntary body, is “incredible” and “reflective of a dysfunctional system” both at a local and State level.
This is the view of Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly who was commenting on the case of an applicant who has been waiting 15 years for a house. She highlighted this specific case in Dáil Éireann, but also noted that it was “simply one” out of c15,000 people on a waiting list for varying periods since the early noughties.
Dep Connolly said such figures show the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland policy is “simply hiding the magnitude of the housing crisis”.
The Galway City Council will build a total of 14 houses this year - the first construction of council houses since 2009. A further 55 units are at the design stage and it is hoped to go on site at the end of 2017/early 2018. “While the construction is very welcome,” said Dep Connolly, “it will not make any serious inroad into the housing crisis.”
However the council’s ability to build more housing units is restricted by a number of factors. Earlier this year Dep Connolly alleged that the “policies of successive governments” had resulted in the “freezing of much residential zoned land” - ie, withholding of permission for the construction of housing - and that the Government’’s approach “is and has been to rely completely on the private market”.
In January, Independent city councillor and former mayor Declan McDonnell alleged that a mixture of “delay tactics”, no emergency planning, and a lack of finance in the Department of Housing was preventing 69 local authority houses from being built in Galway.
In the Dáil, Dep Connolly called on City Hall and the Housing Department to “clarify precisely” what residential land it owns, and what is not “sterilised” by the proposed new N6 project.
In his reply to Dep Connolly in the Dáil, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English, said he was “not happy with what Galway is bringing forward across the board in social housing”. He also alleged that one project submitted by the council under the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund “did not pass the test as it was not going to deliver enough units”.
However Dep Connolly countered by saying “the blaming game is not appropriate given the extent of the crisis” and that the matter should be clarified between the City Hall and the Department.
She said the “complete reliance on the private market” through the use of the Housing Assistance Payment is “actively fuelling the unsustainable rental market and putting public funds “into the hands of landlords”. She added: “There is a role for the private market, but it has to be balanced by an active social housing construction programme and also the facilitation of co-operative housing on council-owned land.”