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Connacht Tribune

Documentary highlights scale of housing crisis



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 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 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

‘Give even one big GAA game to Ballinasloe’



It’s the most centrally located ground in the country but Ballinasloe’s Duggan Park won’t host a single inter-county match this year – much to the annoyance of one local councillor who wants the GAA to allocate at least one big game to the venue.

Cllr Michael Connolly told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the ground is entitled to host major football and hurling fixtures – even though all but one of the Galway footballers’ home league games are assigned to Pearse Stadium with the other one in Tuam.

“If they gave us one match in Duggan Park, it would be something,” he said. “But at the moment, it seems as if it is being ignored.”

The Moylough councillor described it as the most accessible ground in the country and a venue in which players and supporters like to travel to – unlike, he suggested, Pearse Stadium.

He said that it was “a hateful venue” and few GAA supporters relished the prospect of travelling to the “far side of the city” to watch a football or hurling match.

A recent meeting in Gullane’s Hotel to discuss Duggan Park was attended by Deputy Denis Naughton, Senator Aisling Dolan, Cllr Evelyn Parsons and Cllr Declan Kelly among others.

But the Duggan Park Committee then issued a statement saying that the ground is owned by Galway GAA and any use of the facility needed to be authorised – and no authorisation was given to the meeting organiser, former Mayor of Ballinasloe Joe Kelly, for this purpose.

Mr Kelly has been a staunch campaigner for the redevelopment of Duggan Park and has called on the local authority to row in behind this initiative.

They went on to say that there is a plan in place for the development of Duggan Park which is multiple staged which started with the new dressing rooms, flood lights and a new entrance to the venue.

Planning permission is in place for this development and that €500,000 has already been spent in the Duggan Park over the past number of years carrying out these projects.

The work in the ground, they say, is done to an excellent standard by local contractors with the support of the previous Town Council for grants and sports capital grants.

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Connacht Tribune

Former tourism magnet officially on register of derelict sites



The fire-ravaged hotel that was once one of the most popular in the county is now officially considered a derelict site – and that has led a local councillor to call for it to be either redeveloped or levelled.

Portumna’s Shannon Oaks Hotel, for so long popular with anglers and golfers in particular, has been boarded up for more than a decade since it was destroyed by fire.

Local councillor, Jimmy McClearn, has called on the owners to reopen or sell the property – adding that it should either be levelled or redeveloped.

“We are a tourist town and we need a hotel. The last thing we want is for a hotel to be shut up,” he said.

“It is a fine facility and on an extensive site so there is no reason why it should be boarded up,” he added.

The Shannon Oaks saga has gone on for the past twelve years – but now the owners, the multi-millionaire Comer brothers, will be forced to pay a derelict site levy if they do not reopen or redevelop.

That amounts to a seven per cent levy based on the market value of the property, which is worth around €1 million even in its derelict state.

The Shannon Oaks was ravaged by fire in September 2011 and four years later, the site was acquired by the Comer Group who, at the time, gave an undertaking that it would be reopened.

Around two years ago, planning permission was granted by Galway County Council to Barry Comer of the Comer Group to renovate the hotel by providing 60 new bedrooms along with 40 apartments to the rear of the structure.

However, there has been little or no movement on the site since then and now the owners are being again asked to give some indication as to when the hotel will be rebuilt.

It is considered an integral part of the tourism industry for the town and that is why pressure is mounting on the owners to rebuild the hotel.

Cllr McClearn said that all he is asking for is the owners to develop the site and provide a hotel there. “It’s not much to ask in a tourist town,” he added.

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Connacht Tribune

More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway



More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.

Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.

Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996.  Both men remain in custody.

A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.

A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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