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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for Galway’s derelict buildings to be used for housing

Stephen Corrigan

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Galway-based Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has called on the government to introduce measures to reduce the number of derelict sites around the city – something he believes could alleviate the housing crisis in Galway.

Just weeks after Galway was added to the list of rent pressure zones, the Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Housing challenged Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, to implement more stringent measures on owners of derelict sites.

Galway City Council’s Register of Derelict Sites includes 15 properties across the city ranging from small residential homes to vast former business premises.

Speaking in the Seanad on the issue, Senator Ó Clochartaigh explained: “We have 15 registered derelict sites in Galway. This includes the former Corrib Great Southern Hotel, as well as properties in Ballybrit, Newcastle, St Helen’s Street, Ballybane and Dominick Street Upper.

“In light of the unprecedented housing crisis, it is vital that these sites are considered for upgrade, or for alternative use,” he said.

Legislation introduced by the Minister proposed a levy on derelict sites in an attempt by government to force property owners to free up potential housing stock.

However, Senator Ó Clochartaigh believed that this didn’t go far enough – and said that there should be an exemption included for Council-owned properties.

“The three per cent annual levy on derelict sites which is due to come in to force in 2019 should include measures to exclude land held by local authorities. There should also be provisions to include a higher band of five per cent for land of a greater size than one acre,” said Senator Ó Clochartaigh.

Speaking to the Galway City Tribune, Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that pressure needs to be put on landlords to ensure that they cannot retain these sites whilst there are people sleeping on the streets of Galway.

“You have these huge sites that are derelict like the Corrib Great Southern and the old Connacht Laundry.

“Many of these, we don’t know who the owners are and many of them could be vulture funds so we need to do this to put pressure on them – the government need to take more action,” he said.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said he believed that the focus of the government’s attention should be expanded to include smaller residences – with houses in areas like Shantalla and Bohermore having been listed as derelict for several years.

“We should be looking at smaller buildings as well because this legislation by the government only covers big buildings,” he said.

He urged the government to create a situation where local authorities would be in a position to purchase derelict properties for use as social housing.

“The government should give the local authority the finances and the first option to buy these properties and to create homes rather than selling them off as private units to create profit-making entities,” said Senator Ó Clochartaigh.

In its budget for this year, the Council allocated €25,000 for derelict sites but according to the former Galway West general election candidate, this money has only been used for securing properties against vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

“Most of the money is being used for security and that is a waste of resources – it’s money down the drain.

“Why not put the money into creating somewhere for people to live,” he said.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that the issue of landlords selling homes out from under tenants is an issue that must be addressed, particularly as many of these landlords received Section 23 tax reliefs – a relief for expenditure incurred that can be set against the rent received from the property.

“There’s almost a moral onus on owners – they have been subsidised by the tax payer and there’s a moral obligation to the state who have forked out some of the money for these properties.

“Also, if the state is going to buy these properties, they could draw down on some of that money,” he said.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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