A homeless charity has warned that homelessness in the West of Ireland is growing faster than any other region around the country, at a rate of nearly four times the national average.
Galway Simon Community say that the number of people in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland in May 2018 increased drastically by 105% since May 2017, while the national figure grew by 28%.
514 people, including 233 dependents, were recorded as living in emergency accommodation in the West with the majority of these in Galway.
While all nine regions across the country experienced increases over the last year, the rate of increase is faster in the West than in any other area.
Karen Golden, CEO of Galway Simon Community has spoken out about the reasons behind the surge in homelessness in the West and what the charity believes needs to be done about the crisis.
“The private rented sector in Galway is under huge pressure from all sides. The local economy is improving and employment is growing, tourism numbers are very healthy and we have significant numbers of third level students.
“While building activity is increasing again, the housing supply is inadequate to meet the current demand for homes. As a result, rents are increasing to the point where people are being pushed into homelessness.
“Galway City is a designated Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) with rent increases capped at 4% yet, according to Daft.ie’s Quarter 2 report, rents in the city increased by nearly 14% in the last year.
“The average rent in the city is now at €1,131.
“We’re seeing this reflected in the number of people accessing our services. In the first six months of the year, Galway Simon has already supported 375 unique households, many of whom are victims of increased rents and lack of affordable housing.
“Many of those accessing our services at present are under huge stress and literally, at breaking point. Our Prevention Team is doing everything possible to support families to retain the tenancy they have or to find another tenancy, before they end up in emergency accommodation in B&Bs, hostels or hotels.
“We need more social and affordable housing in the city. The social housing targets set by Minister Eoghan Murphy in Rebuilding Ireland and discussed at the Housing Summit this week are to be welcomed.
“However, the Minister is targeting 96 new builds in 2018 and with Catherine Connolly speaking in the Dáil last week of the 14 social homes that are being built in Galway City over the next two years, more work is required to deliver this target.
“Minister Murphy is looking for 64% of the 2018 target for Galway City to be delivered through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme ie through the private rented centre which is already under so much pressure. We urgently need measures in place to enforce RPZ measures and to prevent year on year rent increases which are currently over four times the RPZ upper limit of 4%.
“If the increase in homelessness in this region continues at the current rate, we could be looking at over 1,000 people living in emergency accommodation in the West of Ireland by next year. Unless we urgently start putting more social housing in place, this is a very real possibility. Behind each and every one of these statistics is an individual or family who needs a place to call home.”