COPE says rental vacancy rate of 38% beyond belief in homelessness crisis

Galway Daily news Galway City Council has announced plans for a social housing development of 84 apartments and houses in Knocknacarra.

The number of families living in homelessness while Galway has such a high vacancy rate in the rental sector is beyond belief COPE Galway has said.

COPE is calling for an immediate ban on evictions, steps to bring vacant properties back into use, and action against the unsustainable level of short term lets in Galway.

The homelessness charity said that the number of families and children living in emergency accommodation is 24% higher than last year.

A one day snapshot survey by COPE found 84 families including 217 children living in emergency accommodation on June 21.

COPE Galway is highlighting the situation locally in Galway in response to the latest national figures for May 2022, which report numbers of homeless exceeding 10,000 for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately we are fast approaching the high levels of family homelessness we saw locally pre-pandemic,” stated Martin O’Connor of COPE Galway.

“In early 2020 there were over 100 families living in emergency accommodation here in Galway.”

“The measures introduced at that point, such as a moratorium on evictions, meant the tap was largely turned off in terms of the numbers coming into homelessness.”

By March of 2021, the number of families in emergency accommodation had fallen significantly, but this began to climb again after the moratorium on evictions was lifted that April, he added.

“Fortunately, additional social housing coming on stream over the past 12 months has ensured that some families have left emergency accommodation, but this simply isn’t keeping pace with increasing evictions from the private rented sector.”

COPE Galway points to an acute shortage of available affordable rental accommodation in Galway as one of the main contributing factors to increasing homelessness.

This shortage also increases the length of time people remain in emergency accommodation when they become homeless.

The most recent survey found that rents in Galway had gone up by 13.8% in the first three months of 2022.

At the same time, preliminary figures from the CSO for this April showed that 38% of rental properties in Galway were vacant.

“This vacancy level in the middle of a homelessness crisis is simply beyond belief,” said Mr O’Connor.