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Eco-friendly social housing tenants in Galway cannot afford heating bills


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Eco-friendly social housing tenants in Galway cannot afford heating bills Eco-friendly social housing tenants in Galway cannot afford heating bills

Tenants of environmentally friendly social houses in Galway cannot afford to heat their homes because the ‘eco’ modern heating systems eat electricity.

It comes as Galway City Council confirmed its budget this year for retro-fitting its social housing stock will be cut by Government by 35% – despite ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions through better insulated homes.

Councillor Declan McDonnell (Ind) said residents of Radharc na Gréine, on the Monivea Road, were being “crucified” by sky-high electricity bills to heat their homes.

Cllr McDonnell said the air-to-water heating systems installed in this new estate bought by the Council was too costly to operate for tenants.

He said one tenant was charged €1,080 for two months’ electricity. The bill wasn’t an estimate and was arrived at by a smart meter based on usage.

Cllr McDonnell said the air-to-water heating system “may be environmentally friendly” but it was not “economically” friendly.

It’s understood similar issues have arisen in other counties where heat pumps and air-to-water systems were installed in local authority houses.

The issue emerged during discussion of the Galway City’s Climate Action Plan 2024-29, adopted by councillors on Monday. It sets out targets to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 and a roadmap to carbon neutrality by 2050.

Damien Reddington, Climate Action Co-ordinator at Galway City Council, said he could not comment on specific cases.

He said electricity usage in air-to-water systems varied depending on the type of house, and how and when it was used. Systems that were not installed properly, could cost more to run, he said.

Mr Reddington added that, in general, homes heated electrically, do not have oil or solid fuel costs.

Separately, Elizabeth Fanning, Acting Director of Services, confirmed to Councillor John Connolly (FF), that Government funding for retrofitting social housing in Galway this year, would be 35% less than last year’s allocation.

Cllr Connolly said he was surprised the budget was being cut, meaning fewer homes would be retrofitted in 2024.

Ms Fanning said 54 homes were retrofitted last year, and it was indicated they’d have funding to retrofit 35 this year.

Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab) said people in social houses could not afford to retrofit their homes or instal solar panels, and many middle-income homeowners couldn’t either.

Mr Reddington said there were grants available for private homes; and 100% grants for social housing tenants, but there was a two-year waiting list.

Councillor Noel Larkin (Ind) said Government was not investing enough funding to help homeowners to retrofit.

Cllr Larkin said a constituent paid €100,000 to retrofit their home. They got a grant of €16,500, but the total cost of the project included €28,500 in VAT paid to the exchequer.

“It’s not value for money,” he said.

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