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Connacht Tribune

Documentary highlights scale of housing crisis

Dara Bradley

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Cures for the country’s housing crux have proved worse than the disease, according to a property expert, who described the shortage of homes in Galway as “shocking”.

“The reality is that in Galway, it is horrendous. It’s exactly the same as Dublin in terms of lack of supply. If you go onto Daft.ie now, you’d probably find 20 two-beds in the city. Like, 20, do you know what I mean? A few years ago there would probably be over a thousand,” said Edel O’Brien, series producer on Find me a Home on RTÉ One television.

Ms O’Brien, who filmed in Galway this summer for programme three of the third series, said the “unintended consequences” of Government interventions have made matters worse. Introducing regulations that effectively banned bedsits has increased homelessness, for example.

“You have to have a separate bathroom and separate cooking facility, which means there is no longer a rung on the ladder called a bedsit. And so it’s very, very difficult for the people who are vulnerable, who are either low waged or students, to find accommodation, which is why there are huge problems in Galway.

“Government bring in ideas and legislation to protect tenants. That was the aim. They didn’t envisage that this would happen. A whole layer of bedsits that would have been a safety net is gone. Where’s the safety net now?”

Tenants who would previously be allocated social housing, are now getting Rent Allowance or HAP (Housing Assistance Payments) to find homes in the private rental sector. This is “feeding the demand” for private rentals and “incrementally pushing up rents”.

Meanwhile, the rent caps, which limit rent rises to 4% per year in urban areas including Galway City, are also having adverse unintended consequences, she said.

“Most people out there in rent-controlled tenancies aren’t going to move, they’re going to stay put because they know that if they go up the road to a new place, it might not be bigger, it might not be better but it will be dearer. The only places that come onto Daft.ie are the places that are new, so they can charge whatever they want. People don’t understand how landlords could be leaving the market when rents are so high – it’s a goldmine, they should be raking it in.

“They don’t understand that they’re rent-capped and they’re probably selling-off because they can’t profit from current rental market values. They have what’s called historic rents. It’s not that rent controls are bad. A huge amount of tenancies are protected. But what it has done is stalled the rental market and the new supply coming in.

“Nobody is going to say ‘poor landlords’. It just doesn’t sound right. But they’re feeling a bit hard done by. And we need landlords because we don’t really have a rental sector other than the private rental sector. The rental sector that isn’t private is social housing and there isn’t enough of that,” said Ms O’Brien.

This lack of supply has led to a bear-pit competitive nature of the rental market in Galway, which is laid-bare in episode three of Find me a Home.

With rent-capped landlords exiting the market, leases are being terminated and families face eviction.

In this programme, by Waddell Media, Galway housemates for three years, Robert Landiss, Stewart Killeen and Céclie Robin, have been told that their landlord is selling an entire terrace of houses in the city including theirs.

They receive notice to quit, and are filmed searching for a new place to live.“There’s nothing out there. There just physically aren’t enough houses. People are competing big time. I won’t even say house, apartment or room, the reality is people are evening competing for the bed in the room with somebody else. That’s the competition, there physically are not enough houses,” said Robert Landiss, who described the quality of what is on the market as “shocking”.

The trio eventually did find a property but there’s a sting in the tail since the programme was filmed. They are soon going to lose their new house because their landlord has decided to sell that, too.

Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, Stewart Killeen said: “We haven’t been served notice yet. When the possible sale goes through, we’ll get 28 days’ notice then. We moved-in in June. It’s a nightmare having to leave again. It’s daunting. You definitely feel anger. It’s annoyingly ironic that the property class have so much sway in the country. It seems to be just a chronic situation. Our rent has risen in this place, and I know the prospect is that my rent is likely to go up again, which adds an extra dimension. It’s daunting and it’s dreadful but I am optimistic that we will find a place.”

Connacht Tribune

Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.

The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.

“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.

“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.

They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.

Travel and transport

You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes, food production or care of animals

You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.

Public and private transport

You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.

Education and childcare

The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:

  • education and childcare
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
  • Economic activity and work
  • Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.

Social

Cafes and restaurants

  • All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
  • Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.

Outdoor gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.

Cultural and religious

  • All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
  • Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.

Sport

No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:

  • non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
  • professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
  • inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors

Residential and healthcare facilities

*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).

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Connacht Tribune

Relocation homebuyers head to the west

Dara Bradley

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Clifden....popular destination.

The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.

Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.

The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.

But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.

“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.

The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.

Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.

“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears

Stephen Corrigan

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Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.

First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.

“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.

“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.

Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.

However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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