Only tourists can af­ford to rent in Gal­way, hous­ing de­bate hears

The Irish Times - - Home News - LORNA SIGGINS

Gal­way is fast be­com­ing a city where “only tourists can af­ford to rent a bed”, a de­bate on hous­ing has heard.

The Gov­ern­ment’s rent­pres­sure zone leg­is­la­tion is “not work­ing”, as there is no ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing of land­lords who cite “re­fur­bish­ment or sale” to re­place tenants at a prop­erty, a newly formed hous­ing sup­port group in Gal­way claimed.

Speak­ing at a de­bate on hous­ing at the Gal­way Fem­i­nist Col­lec­tive Fes­ti­val on Satur­day, Eadaoin de Faoite of the Gal­way Hous­ing Sup­port Group said many city-cen­tre apart­ments and houses for­merly rented by stu­dents were now reg­is­tered as Airbnbs.

Gal­way City Coun­cil needed to cap the num­ber of Airbnbs, sim­i­lar to sys­tems in­tro­duced in sev­eral Euro­pean cities, Ms de Faoite said. The city has been a rent-pres­sure zone since Jan­uary 2017, as one of a num­ber of des­ig­nated ar­eas in­clud­ing Dublin, Kil­dare, Louth, Wick­low and Cork, where rent in­creases are capped at 4 per cent an­nu­ally over a three-year pe­riod.

Col­leges

Due partly to the num­ber of third-level col­leges, Gal­way has one of the high­est ten­ancy rates in the State, but Ms de Faoite said many tenants were be­ing forced fur­ther and fur­ther out of the city, sim­i­lar to the sit­u­a­tion in Dublin.

She said a com­mu­nity re­sponse was re­quired, sim­i­lar to that which has al­ready hap­pened in Dublin, where vul­ner­a­ble tenants re­ceive sup­port from hous­ing cam­paign groups. Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and a fo­cus on pri­vate com­mer­cial devel­op­ment of city-cen­tre of­fice spa­ces and ho­tels was turn­ing Gal­way into a “city for tourists only”.

Com­mu­nity sup­port

Anny Cul­lum of the Acorn tenants’ union in Bris­tol, Eng­land, and Thomas Lynch and Ais­ling Bruen of Dublin Cen­tral Hous­ing Ac­tion said com­mu­nity sup­port for tenants could prove very ef­fec­tive.

Acorn was formed in Bris­tol four years ago when rents be­gan to rise as peo­ple were forced out of Lon­don, and its ac­tions range from prac­ti­cal sup­ports for tenants, to di­rect ac­tion, to pick­et­ing let­ting agen­cies and stag­ing protests in banks.

Ms Bruen and Mr Lynch said the cur­rent oc­cu­pa­tion of a house in Sum­mer­hill pa­rade in Dublin aimed to high­light the need to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble tenants from forced evictions, and the need for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to use com­pul­sory pur­chase or­der leg­is­la­tion to ac­quire va­cant prop­er­ties.

Re­cent Depart­ment of Hous­ing fig­ures for Gal­way showed an in­crease in the num­ber of fam­i­lies liv­ing in emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion: 82 fam­i­lies in­clud­ing 233 chil­dren in May 2018.

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