Update on Housing Crisis in Galway in the context of forthcoming budget-Funding must be provided for the construction of Local Authority Housing.
At last night’s City Council meeting, the 3rd Quarterly Housing Report was a damning indictment of current government policy.
The housing waiting list in Galway City continues to grow with 3,962households on the one/two, three and four bedroom list for up to 11 years on the West side of the City. It has to be emphasised that this figure is the number of households on the waiting list, meaning that the number of people actually waiting for a Local Authority Home is at least 10,000 and that is at a conservative estimate.
The present government however has to-date abandoned any commitment to the provision of social housing having suspended all funding for the construction of new Council houses since the election in 2011. Moreover it has been repeatedly confirmed by City Council Management in Galway, that Government policy is simply to provide funding for the renting of private houses under the Rental Accommodation Scheme and/or the Long Term Leasing Scheme with no funding available from government to purchase and/or construct public housing. The effect of this policy is to artificially bolster the market, leading to higher rents and a housing supply problem in Galway City but equally significant is the fact that from September 2011 any household availing of RAS/Long Term leasing has been removed from the housing waiting list! To-date 500 households have availed of the RAS scheme and 100 households have availed of the Long Term Leasing scheme When however as repeatedly happen, the landlord for one reason or another including NAMA, the Banks and/or personal reasons wishes to take back his house, then the contract is terminated and the tenant is left in no man’s land.
In summary and despite Labour’s rhetoric on fundamental human rights, the FG/Labour Government has fundamentally changed housing policy without as much as even one debate on the issue. No longer is an applicant and/or family on the housing waiting list entitled to a local authority house for life as long there is compliance with the tenancy agreement. Rather, what a tenant is now entitled to- is a short term lease in a private house at the whim of the landlord. Moreover once the family move into that private house they are removed from the waiting list.
Further the housing staff in City Council have been reduced and/or elevated depending on your viewpoint- to estate agents/auctioneers-their primary role being to find private houses for housing applicants funded by public monies. On top of that and notwithstanding that it is the only game in town from the government’s viewpoint, Council officials confirmed at the meeting that despite extensive advertising by the Housing Department using public funds only 16 private houses became available this year in Galway. How is that for housing policy!
Let’s hope the Government do the decent thing in the Budget and provide funding for a public housing construction program in Galway and throughout the country to give our people homes and to regulate the market by providing some form of competition. Quite clearly also such a program would provide much needed jobs, stimulate the economy and not to mention the many other positive spin offs.