An unprecedented number of objections to the proposed building of more than 70 new social housing units on the Ballymoneen Road in Knocknacarra have been made, according to councillor Mike Crowe.
Cllr Crowe says he cannot recall such vocal opposition to a planning application in the years he has worked on the council. "The opposition from local residents has been substantial; above the norm for a planning application. There has been a constant stream of emails to the Department [of Housing, Planning, and Local Government], as well as city councillors."
Members of the public were able to make submissions until Tuesday on a planning permission application by the Galway City Council which would see 74 homes on the site at the entrance to Coláiste na Coiribe on the Ballymoneen Road.
The plans include the extension of the existing road servicing the school, the creation of a playground, and a MUGA (soft surface multi-use games area ) facility.There will be two four-bed houses; 30 three-bed houses; 12 two-bed duplex; 12 two-bed apartments; nine three-bed duplex; and nine other apartments, all with renewable energy design measures included and will be leased at a nominal rent to tenants on the city’s local authority waiting list.
"The city is under pressure for housing and the Galway City Council is under pressure with housing lists, but it is important to remember that local residents are entitled to voice their concerns and provide their suggestions on how to improve the application. Planners and councillors will take all suggestions into consideration before deciding on the next course of action."
A fear of a rise in antisocial behaviour
Independent councillor Donal Lyons, who is hopeful the project will get the go ahead as soon as possible, says it is important to address and alleviate local residents' concerns regarding the new local development.
“A number of concerns have been put forward about the number of alleyways linking one housing development to another. Alleyways in the area have seen problems with anti-social behaviour in the past, and certain areas have seen alleyways closed because of this. These residents are not opposing the building of social houses, but believe there may be too many access points from one estate to another and fear this may lead to a rise in antisocial behaviour.
“It is important we address these concerns because we need housing. It will also mean the city council can start to reduce the financial burden of paying back the interest on loans to purchase land for social housing, which was more than €500,000 last year. It is good to see a mixture of homes in this development as the council should be aiming to provide voluntary and affordable housing as well as social housing.”
Ballymoneen Road development needed
Emma Dolan, head of client services at Galway Simon Community, says social housing developments like the proposed project on the Ballymoneen Road are important in tackling housing waiting lists.
“There were 237 adults in emergency accommodation in Galway in February and we have many more people in homeless services waiting to move out. The social housing waiting list for Galway, between the city and county, has over 5,000 households waiting for a home. The only way we can start to deal with this demand is to start focusing on long-term housing solutions like the Ballymoneen Road development. This will give people the opportunity to have a home of their own and begin to address the current housing shortage in the city.
“At Galway Simon when we are housing people, whether it be through our own services or helping people to find a home through private rented or social housing, we believe it is hugely important for people to be housed in the community and to integrate into society. It is our belief that everybody has a right to live as a private citizen, irrespective of the type of housing they live in, and to be free from discrimination regardless of their economic or housing status.”
A report will now be prepared for councillors by the council executive on whether it is recommended to proceed with the plan or with a modified proposal. The project already has funding in place, it will be built by a private contractor and will be managed by a private company. This company will be paid a monthly fee for 25 years from the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government before the properties are returned to the city council. If planning permission is granted, it is expected the homes would take between 18 months and two years to build. Meanwhile, construction work is continuing at a site further up the Ballymoneen Road, where 14 social houses are being built, and plans are in place for a further 55 units.
Increase in Galway house prices
The news comes on the back of new figures released by property website Daft.ie which shows another increase in house prices across Galway during the first three months of 2018.
The average home in the city is now priced at €273,000. This is an increase of three per cent compared to this time last year. In the county, house prices are on average 11 per cent higher than last year with an average home costing €194,000.