Galway city council has decided to move ahead with a social housing project in Ballybane which is expected to cost roughly €12 million.
The council voted to Monday to proceed with a Part 8 planning application for 58 social housing units on site in Ballybaan More.
The estate will consist of 18 apartment and 50 houses, up from initial plans for 50 units, facing onto the Monivea road and Old Ballybane road.
Four vehicular access points off the Old Ballybane road are proposed in the plans, with 73 car parking spaces and 18 cycle parking spaces.
There was strong debate in the city council about the merits of this plan, with some councillors saying that local residents were concerned about anti-social behaviour, while supporters of the plan said it must proceed in light of our housing crisis.
Cllr Mike Crowe said that plans for a development purely consisting of social housing wasn’t in the best interest of the area, saying that the council already has trouble managing its existing stock.
He recommended rejecting the plans, saying that the site needed an affordable housing scheme. The councillor also brought up concerns about anti-social behaviour which were raised at a public meeting about this project in Galway city east.
Cllr John Walsh, who proposed the motion to proceed with this planing process, said it was essential for the council to increase its housing stock with more than 50 families living in emergency accommodation, costing the council more than €300,000 a month.
The Fine Gael councillor added added that he hoped that funding for an affordable housing scheme would become available withing the year and the council could work with the Department of Housing on dividing this development between both social and affordable housing.
During the public consultation period of this project 50 public submissions were made to the city council which expressed concerns about traffic issues, a lack of amenities, privacy issues, and pedestrian safety.
Cllr Colette Connolly said that anti-social behaviour has become a “nightmare” for many people that the council must deal with, but that there is also an obligation to build more social housing to address long waiting lists.
There are currently 4,169 households on a waiting list for council houses in Galway city, with more than half of those expressing a preference for housing on the east side of the city.
Galway city council has committed to delivering 1,089 new social housing units by the end of 2021, with 400 of those to be delivered through direct builds on council owned lands.
Cllr Terry O’Flaherty suggested that the council could revisit this in six months when the Affordable Housing Scheme is up and running, and that the council should focus on addressing anti-social behaviour on existing estates.
However Cllr Mark Lohan warned that the council risked losing the funding available from the government to build social housing if it didn’t act now.
City Manager Brendan McGrath highlighted that last month the city council voted to ask the government to declare a housing emergency, and that the council must back this up with actions of its own.
He warned that “If we decide to kick this down the road we are deferring building any houses on this site by a number of years at least”.
The CEO also insisted that anti-social issues on council estates only involve a tiny minority of people out of more than 2000 homes the council operates.
Cllr Pearce Flannery acknowledged that there is an issue with anti-social behaviour which the council has been “lethargic” in addressing, but he said that this shouldn’t “cloud” the issue of addressing Galway’s housing crisis.
A motion proposed by Mike Crowe to reject the plans currently before the council was defeated with 9 voting against it and 6 in favour.
Afterwards the council took up John Walsh’s motion to proceed with the Part 8 planning application was passed unanimously.