Minister vows to address Galway housing shortage
A “vibrant and properly regulated private rental sector” must be introduced to end Ireland’s “love affair” with property ownership.
That is the view of Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan, who was speaking at a conference on the key challenges facing the housing sector at NUI Galway on Friday.
Reflecting on the Celtic Tiger property boom, the Labour TD said that a glut of capital in these markets in recent decades, historically low interest rates among other things made owning a house a “social imperative”.
She also went on to accuse “those who we entrusted to guard the gates” of “falling asleep in the sentry box” and that conditions on mortgage finance were either “side-stepped or ignored”.
However, she added that there was now evidence that the ownership paradigm was changing and that work was currently underway to adapt social housing models to realign them in favour of tenant-based solutions, alongside a new properly regulated private housing system.
The Minister also highlighted planning regulation and standards as an area that must be re-evaluated to “address the mistakes of our past”, in addition to a root and branch examination of the housing sector.
Minister O’Sullivan was joined by Miss Justice Mary Laffoy, Professor Steffan Gerkach of the Central Bank of Ireland and Mr Regis Brillat, Head of the Department of the European Social Charter, Council of Europe at the ‘Key Contemporary Housing Issues in a Changing Europe’ event.
Before addressing the conference, the Minister met with local Labour representatives who briefed her on the local issues in the housing sector in Galway, particularly the 5,000 people currently waiting on social and affordable housing in the city.
Other topics discussed at the meeting included the difficulties with the current housing schemes, concerns about the standard of private accommodation, and the implementation of Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS).
Deputy Derek Nolan branded the event “a very positive meeting for all concerned”, with Minister O’Sullivan agreeing to keep in regular contact on the issues.
“It is clear that housing situation in Galway is very challenging and all facets of housing policy and its implementation were discussed during the meeting.
“It is very positive that we have the ability to bring these Galway issues directly to the Minister and that she is so interested in Galway. She is already preparing proposals to transfer the rent supplement scheme, which can create such a poverty trap for people, to the local authorities to provide support for people who can go back to work.”
However, Deputy Nolan also acknowledged that financial restraints would have an implication on the actions taken to solve the housing shortage.
“The major difficulty, acknowledged by the Minister, was the crisis in the availability of capital. There is simply no money available to build new units. We impressed on the Minister the difficulties this is causing and the need to find innovative ways to provide more housing.”