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CITY TRIBUNE

150 new social housing units given green light in Knocknacarra

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Two house-building projects in Knocknacarra – which will provide 152 social housing units – have been given the green light, but amendments to the plans means they will be delayed by months.

Councillors at a meeting of Galway City Council welcomed the first social housing schemes in ten years in the city where 4,140 families — an estimated 12,000 people — are on the housing list.

However, following a decision by councillors to omit a link road in one scheme of 78 residential units at Ballyburke and a pedestrian/cycleway in the second scheme of 74 units, neither of these will now go to tender in August as planned, as the amended plans will have to be resubmitted to the Department of the Environment.

The bigger of the two schemes at Ballyburke on the Ballymoneen Road (the Ard Cré development, part of which is currently under construction) is fully financed by public funds, but Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, said the other scheme of 74 units, at the entrance to Coláiste na Coiribe could be in jeopardy as it was being built by a private contractor under a Public Private Partnership scheme.

“I am not crying wolf here,” he warned councillors, “but this scheme is part of a bundle and I would be concerned that there is a risk that the bundle will proceed without us.”

Patricia Philbin, Senior Executive Officer, had told the meeting she had hoped to send the housing plans to the Department in July, go to tender in August, break ground next January and have them completed by the middle of 2020.

Cllr Declan McDonnell, chairman of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee, described concerns about alleyways and through roads as “delaying tactics” and said he would not be supporting it in light of the need for housing in the city.

But a number of councillors were determined to bring public concerns to the meeting about security, crime and child safety. There were 72 submissions made on this scheme alone after it went on public display. Mr McGrath said he was surprised at the tone and language used in a number of these.  Councillors Mark Lohan and Billy Cameron agreed.

Cllr Niall McNelis said that the concerns of local people had to be taken into account as residents did not want alleyways or areas that would attract anti-social behaviour and that the Council had to close many of these off in recent years for that reason.

Outgoing Mayor of Galway, Cllr Pearce Flannery stressed that houses needed to be built and he welcomed both schemes, but without the link road or the laneways.

It was pointed out to councillors that there was no comparison to alleyways in previous housing estates to what was envisaged here, where the pedestrian/cycle way giving access to the school, were designed differently.

Both Mr McGrath and Ms Philbin, Acting Director of Services, explained to councillors that such linkage roads and walkways were part of the city’s own Development Plan, as well as the National Development Plan as they represented sustainability of movement and transport and to omit them in these schemes was going against national policy and in fact might mean that homeowners in adjacent estates might find when selling that their properties were not certificate compliant.

Cllr Lohan said he welcomed the housing schemes and their layout — they will include four, three and two-bedroomed houses and duplexes to suit smaller family units with playgrounds and green spaces as well as home zones — but was concerned about the reluctance of some councillors to get them the go-ahead.

Cllr Cathal Ó Conchúir acknowledged that alleyways had created anti-social problems before, but was confident these pedestrian/cycle ways were totally different as they were overlooked by houses and weren’t surrounded by high walls.

Despite the executive advice to the meeting, councillors voted to amend both plans by 14 to 3.

CITY TRIBUNE

Renters paying €12,000 more per annum in Galway City than ten years ago

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People living in private rented accommodation in Galway City are paying, on average, around €12,000 more per annum than they were a decade ago.

New research from property website Daft.ie has found that in the past year, average rents in the city have increased by 16.4% and now stand at €1,713 per month.

Meanwhile, the Dáil was told last week that the situation in the rental market in the city is “horrendous”.

According to the figures published this week, rents in the city have increased by a whopping 145% since the bottom of the market in early 2012, when they stood at an average of around €700 per month.

Nationally, the increase was 14.1% year on year, or 4.3% between June and September (the figure was 3% for Galway City).

Economist Ronan Lyons of Daft.ie said that the last ten quarterly reports from the website have recorded new all-time highs for average rents.

He said that in the past 18 months, there has been an “extraordinary collapse” in the stock available to rent in Ireland.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Select Committee on Finance last week, Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell said Sinn Féin had long been calling for tax credits, but these needed to be in tandem with a freeze on rents.

“My concern is that if the Government does not introduce a rent freeze, this measure will put further pressure on families and individuals who are struggling to pay for their accommodation. Many renters feel there is no end or hope in sight. To be perfectly honest, I have never seen the housing crisis in Galway as bad as it is now.

“Galway is the place I can best reference and there is little rental property available in Galway. There is concern that this will add to the pressure that people are already facing if a rent freeze is not also introduced,” she said.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe responded that in the Budget he had announced a €500 rent credit, specifically for those who do not receive other housing supports from the State.

“I also acknowledge that too many people are paying too much of their income in rent,” he said.

The Minister added that in Berlin, where rent freezes were imposed, the volume of new rental accommodation available had decreased, and he contended the same would happen in Ireland.

Deputy Farrell said: “Myself and the woman who works with me in my local office are at our wits’ end. Today we had a conversation about how to tell people coming to us that the council can do nothing because there are no rental properties and there is nowhere for people to go.

“That is a position that we have not seen ourselves in since I was elected. I am talking about the period since 2014. Things are getting worse.”

According to the Daft.ie report, average monthly rents for a one-bed apartment in Galway City stand at €1,142 (up 15% year on year); €1,333 for a two-bed house (up 13.7%); €1,594 for a three-bed house (up 16.2%); €1,948 for a four-bed (up 17.7%) and €1,959 for a five-bed (up 2.7%).

For the ‘rent a room’ renters, a single bedroom in the city centre is costing an average of €572 per month (up 15.1% year on year) and €617 for a double room (up 13.4%). In the suburbs, single bedrooms and renting for €533 per month (up 20.3%) and €593 for a double (up 22.5%).

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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister deploys high-level ‘rescue’ team to help University Hospital Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has deployed a high-level National Support Team to help crisis-stricken University Hospital Galway

Ann Cosgrove, Chief Operating Officer of the Saolta University Healthcare Group – which operates UHG and Merlin Park – confirmed this week that the ‘rescue’ team was in place to tackle overcrowding and delays at the Emergency Department.

Membership of the support team includes at least seven high-level HSE managers, including a hospital consultant.

The team has already met with local staff in charge of patient flow, discharges, bed management and unscheduled care. They will write up an action plan to improve the patient experience, she said.

The hospital has implemented a targeted intervention plan over the past few months to reduce the number of patients on trolleys while awaiting admission to a bed, focusing on timely diagnostics and decision making and the timely discharge of patients.

To achieve this, the hospital had been approved to recruit seven patient flow coordinators, one “data analyst for the acute floor” and one medical social worker.

Management are also in talks to increase bed capacity with the Galway Clinic and the Bon Secours private hospitals.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, and support our journalism, see the November 25 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also extensive coverage this week of plans for a new cancer Centre of Excellence and the latest meeting of the Regional Health Forum West. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Shoplifting in Galway almost doubles as cost of living crisis takes hold

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The rate of shoplifting in the Galway City has skyrocketed as the cost of living crisis takes hold.

At a public meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) on Tuesday, it was revealed that the rate of theft from shops in the city had increased by 87% year-on-year.

Chief Data Analyst for the Galway Garda Division, Olivia Maher, said this was in line with a national trend.

“There is some thought that this is as a result of the cost of living crisis and the pressures that people are under as a result – we are seeing these trends at a national level,” said Ms Maher.

She said that overall, property theft had begun to return to pre-Covid levels, with 1,264 incidents in the first 10 months of 2022 – a 50% increase on the same period last year.

“Property crime is beginning to reach pre-Covid figures and while it’s up on last year, it’s down 5% on the 2019 figure.

“Burglary is still trending below pre-Covid figures at 107 compared to 192 in 2019,” said Ms Maher.

An increased awareness of fraud was resulting in a reduction in a number of categories, including accommodation fraud, something that typically affects the city’s third level students.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article,  see the November 25 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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