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