Government proposals to increase social housing output on a national basis to be announced later today must be welcomed.
However the details, the timing and the funding for same will be crucial and will determine whether the Government is serious about tackling the acute housing crisis that exists are simply spinning a story
The national figure of 90,000 households on housing waiting lists highlights the extent of the crisis.
In relation to this figure however I have repeatedly made the point that the figure refers to households- so in the context of Galway City where there are 3,962 households on the waiting list and many more in the process of assessment, it means that somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people at the very least are waiting for a home.
Applicants on this list for a one/two bedroom house are waiting for a home for up to 12 years and those waiting for a three bed-roomed house are waiting up to 7 and 8 years and more .
This in a City where outside of Dublin, the rents are the highest in the country.
Furthermore any proposals from the government must deal with the mess that exists re tenants’ security of tenure.
At present for example if an applicant in Galway City is offered a private house under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) they have no choice but to accept it (subject to one/two refusals for reasonable reasons) and their name is taken off the waiting list!
Moreover the new Act, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2014 makes specific provision for what is called a ‘Housing Assistance Payment or HAP as it is called. This payment is to allow the housing applicant source a private house and again that person is removed from the waiting list!
We have the unacceptable situation therefore where applicants on the housing waiting list in Galway are at the mercy of what is offered to them by the relevant official at any particular time i.e. take a private house with little security of tenure either on the RAS scheme and/or with HAP payment and the removal of their names from the waiting list.
Or if the person is lucky, he/she will be offered a local authority house and have security of tenure for life and or a house with one of the voluntary bodies.
Such discrimination in the allocation of houses based on government policy is completely unacceptable and is a matter which has to be sorted out.
Lets await the government’s announcement.