Galway Simon Community welcomes measures to tackle homelessness in Budget

Galway Daily news COPE Galway extremely worried at record homelessness levels

Galway Simon Community has welcomed some measures included in the Budget to address the housing crisis and homelessness.

However, the homelessness and housing organisation also expressed concern about the delivery of social housing in Galway.

Galway Simon Community said that it welcomes the €2.3 billion for housing in 2019, but that it questions how many social housing units that will be delivered in Galway.

Responding to the Budget, the organisation said: “With 1,728 households on the social housing waiting list in the City, and rents increasing at a rate of 16% per annum – four times the Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) cap of 4%, new housing must come on stream quickly to relieve the pressure in the market and provide people with the homes they desperately need.

“There is a commitment to deliver 6,385 social housing units through new build in 2019.

“However, according to the most recent figures published, Galway City Council has no social housing projects on site at present and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) have a total of 134 units under construction.

“As such, in spite of the budget announcements, it is difficult to see any significant increase in social housing being delivered in Galway next year.  Demand for housing is likely to continue to far outstrip supply and pressure will continue to come to bear on the people we work with on a daily basis.

“We welcome the announcement of the affordable housing scheme and we await more details on how this will work.”

 Galway Simon Community also commented on the Private Rental Sector, saying that this budget does not address the issue of rent certainty and enhanced security of tenure which are urgently needed.

It said that there are no announcements of cost rental or affordable rental schemes to help address the crisis of affordability in the private rental sector and that preventing people from becoming homeless is key to ending this crisis.

But Galway Simon Community welcomed the additional €60 million capital funding in 2018 and €30 million for homeless services.

“Given the scale of the homelessness crisis it is critical that people have somewhere safe and secure to stay while waiting for a home. However, we must not be reliant on short term measures and temporary solutions.

“We know that moving to a secure home with support is the best way to ensure people move on from homelessness.

“Emergency accommodation should be short term in nature – nobody should be in emergency accommodation for months, and sometimes years, on end.  Once there, people should be supported to source and maintain a tenancy in the wider community.”

The longer people stay in emergency accommodation, Galway Simon said, the greater the impact on their health and well-being.

“It is critical that we address the cause of the housing and homelessness crisis, and not just the symptoms.  Without sufficient new housing coming on stream, the numbers in emergency accommodation continue to grow, from 36 in the West of Ireland in June 2014 to 499 in June 2018.

“Galway City Council’s spend on emergency accommodation was €300,000 in 2016 and it is estimated that this will increase to €1.2m in 2018.  The absence of secure affordable housing is at the heart of the housing and homeless crisis,” the organisation added.

It was pleased with the increase in social welfare payments by €5 per week and the restoration of the 100% Christmas bonus payment but said it is disappointing that payment for those under 26 years of age has not been restored.