Galway City Council’s blank cheques deprive first-time buyers


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway City Council’s blank cheques deprive first-time buyers Galway City Council’s blank cheques deprive first-time buyers

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

The debate sparked by Fianna Fáil City Councillor MJ Crowe’s remarks about a house in Renmore, bought by the local authority and earmarked for Travellers has been well-aired in recent weeks.

But there is one aspect of the controversy that appears to have been missed: Why is Galway City Council buying houses at all?

Without revisiting the ill-judged, inflammatory commentary about who the City Council should allocate houses to after it has purchased them, people should question the wisdom of why the Council is buying houses in the private market in the first place.

Maybe there’s an argument to be made for the Council to buy back former social housing stock that was purchased by tenants who have now died; or to buy derelict homes and bring them back into use.

Or, as has been championed by some Opposition politicians in recent weeks, maybe there is scope for Councils to step in and buy houses from landlords of HAP tenants who face eviction.

But Galway City Council should not be competing with first-time buyers or downsizers in the open market.

Council officials should not be swanning around to city estate agents and auctioneers with blank cheques, snapping up any homes that come to market.

When they do that, no matter who the homes are allocated to, the Council is pushing up prices for everyone else in the market for a house, and it is reducing the available stock of housing. It makes the situation worse, not better.

And why is it happening? So they can say to Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien they provided X amount of ‘social’ houses this year, and he can relay that jolly news to the Dáil?

This is artificially skewing the market because money is no object to Council officials who are happy to spend public cash to buy the appearance that they’re doing something to solve the crisis.

They’re fooling nobody. City Hall needs to go back to basics: Build more social houses with the ample land-banks in public ownership around Galway City, and stop stealing homes from first-time buyers, by out-bidding them on properties that come to market.

The housing disaster cannot be solved with the existing stock of houses. There aren’t enough of them; that’s why the Council fills hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses and prefabricated homes with homeless people.

Building new Council houses, including Traveller-specific accommodation, not buying existing homes here and there in city estates, is the only solution to the Government’s and Galway City Council’s housing failure.

(Photo: Galway City Council’s Director of Services for Housing, Patricia Philbin. The question of why the Council is buying, rather than building houses needs to be addressed).
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the October 21 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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