National emergency in relation to Housing Crisis

Councillor Catherine Connolly supports  call on government to declare national emergency in relation to Housing Crisis.

Press Release: 6th October 2015: Councillor Catherine Connolly supports call for declaration of national emergency in relation to the housing crisis with approximately 15,000 people on the list in Galway City with some households waiting up to 15 years on the two bed-roomed list on the West side of the City.

Speaking at a housing conference in Liberty Hall last Saturday entitled ‘Towards a Real Housing Strategy’ Cllr Connolly said she fully supported the call by other speakers including Fr Peter McVerry and Dr Rory Hearne from Maynooth University that a national emergency should be declared in the relation to the housing crisis.

Cllr Connolly said she was asked to speak in relation to the situation in Galway while other speakers spoke from the Dublin perspective and also the potential role that NAMA could play in providing more sustainable solutions to the housing crisis.

Cllr Connolly said in preparation for the conference she looked back over the quarterly housing reports that she had received over the last number of years and particularly since December 2009 to date. Over that period of time Galway City Councillors received twenty three housing reports which were also available to all TDs in Galway and to the Department of the Environment-without a doubt she said the government was fully informed at every step of the way as to the mounting crisis.

Significantly the December 2009 housing report confirmed that 83 houses had been constructed by the City Council in that year. In the five and half year period since then however not one single social house has been built in Galway City (other than a small number of refurbishments) and the output for the end of 2015 into 2016 is the sum total of 13 housing units in Knocknacarra.

Instead government policy under this government is to rely primarily on the private market to provide homes and to a lesser extent on a number of voluntary housing associations to which government money is made available.

However absolutely no money was made available over that five and half year period to the City Council to build any social housing notwithstanding that it owned large tracts of residential zoned land particularly in Knocknacarra. Furthermore the City Council continues to repay both capital and interest on the monies borrowed to buy this land currently amounting to 26 million because it remains undeveloped!

In addition since 2010 and as expected given the failure to build, the Galway City housing waiting list has continued to grow out of all proportion, month after month, year after year with now approximately4,500 households on the list in Galway with another 600 households on either the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and/or the Long Term Leasing Scheme (LTL). Moreover the FG/Labour government have presided over the most fundamental change in housing policy with the introduction of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) which allows for the City Council to remove a housing applicant from the waiting list once they are in receipt of this payment and residing in a private house.

Councillor Connolly said the figures are truly shocking but what is even more shocking is the utter failure by the government to commit to a social housing construction program. Cllr Connolly said such a construction program is an essential part of the solution and even the most recent report from the National Social and Economic Council dated July 2015 stated clearly that there is a strong case for the use of public authorities to lead the resumption of housing provision and urban development.

The government must commit to providing Galway City Council with Funds to initiate a social housing construction program not only to provide homes but to provide a balance to the market driven policy that has proven to be so deficient given the magnitude of the numbers on the waiting list.


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