If anything illustrated the emptiness of repeated Government policy on student accommodation in Galway, it is the fact that right beside the GMIT on the Dublin Road, there is a hotel that has been empty for over ten years.
That’s what Galway West Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Dáil last week – adding that the former Corrib Great Southern should have long been used for student accommodation.
BY TIM RYAN
“It should have never been sold by the State in the first place. When it was sold, it was held in private ownership for a period and then left empty. It still remains empty on the Dublin Road, if the Minister wishes to go to see it,” she said.
“It highlights what has happened in Ireland with our reliance on the market. That hotel should have been taken back into State ownership and used for student accommodation, which would have helped relieve the difficulties in Galway,” she added.
Galway is a city she said that she has used repeatedly as an example because the crisis there is far worse than that in Dublin, in her opinion, based on the facts.
“We have people waiting on a waiting list from 2002 who never once received an offer of accommodation,” she said.
“That illustrates it. We have somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 people, depending on which statistics we use, on a waiting list.
“The Simon report, Locked Out of the Market, a snapshot study in March of this year is really worth looking at. They go through various towns and cities and they confirm the limited number of properties available.
“Bear in mind that the Government’s strategy is utterly reliant on the private market and we have twisted language to talk about social housing, which is really private accommodation with a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
“That is what we are reliant on and then we look at Galway and there was an average of 15 properties available to rent in Galway city centre over the three days of the study,” said the Independent TD.
Much worse than that, Deputy Connolly said not a single property was available within the four categories allowed under the Housing Assistance Payment.
“There was no property available under the single category, for a couple, for a couple with one child or for a couple with more children. We are utterly reliant on HAP and there are no properties available.
“To make it even worse, the discretion allowed for an increase of 20% still does not allow anyone in Galway to access property under HAP.”
In addition, in Galway the figures for homelessness on 27 April showed 21 families with children in hotels and bed and breakfasts, she said.
“We only have a population of something over 70,000. There were two couples in bed and breakfasts, three single people in bed and breakfasts, two families in transition and a further large family was staying somewhere else.”
Interestingly, this was in addition to the Fairgreen hostel and the Osterley hostel which looks after women.
“Then we have the new language,” she added.
“Throughout the winter, approximately ten county clients used the cold weather response bed. We have another system called the harm reduction packs; that is a sleeping bag plus food. That is what we are reduced to in Galway, giving out a harm-reduction pack.”