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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway’s Rent Pressure Zone is pushing families onto the street

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One of the Government’s cures for the city’s housing crisis has proved worse than the disease.

Galway City Council has warned that the Rent Pressure Zone introduced by the Government earlier this year to curb excessive rent hikes, is actually pushing more families into homelessness.

Since the RPZs were introduced, landlords are abandoning Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) and Leasing Schemes for local authority tenants.

Landlords have also threatened legal action against the Council, claiming breach of contract due to the new legislation which curbs the amount of rents they can charge.

The RPZ, which caps annual rent increases at 4%, is “penalising” landlords, the City Council said.

In turn, this is enticing them to leave the schemes, and the increase in notices to quit is creating further homelessness, the Council said.

The argument is set-out in a detailed review of the RPZs, which were introduced in Galway City in January 2017. The review has been submitted to the Department of Environment.

The Council said the rent caps “appear to be negatively impacting on the supply of much-needed homes under our leasing schemes in the social rented market”.

The submission adds: “Since the introduction of these new measures, numerous landlords have decided to withdraw from these schemes and other have indicated that they will do so, based on the fact that the City Council are not adhering to the terms and conditions of the contracts governing the arrangements supplying these houses, specifically the rent review clauses in the contracts, which are based on prevailing market rates.”

Under the schemes’ contracts, landlords have been paid the prevailing market rate, minus 8%. Landlords had a “legitimate expectation” that the terms of the contracts would be honoured, and therefore the “new rental legislation is actually penalising those landlords who are supply Galway City Council with much needed social rented houses”.

“At present we have up to 20 notices of termination issued by landlords and have received numerous solicitors’ letters on behalf of landlords who have stated that they will now commence the institution of legal proceedings on the basis that the City Council are not abiding by the terms of the RAS contracts with regard to rent review provisions,” the Council said.

The measures have also “devalued rental investment property” and there is now a “very strong incentive” for landlords to sell to an owner occupier “in order to achieve full market value”.

The Council also warned of the impacts on homelessness.  “It is inevitable that most of those households who receive notices of termination under these schemes will have to avail of homeless emergency accommodation in due course and these households will, in the main, be families. In the current climate with such a lack of supply of public and private housing, it is inevitable that most of these homeless families will find themselves in homeless services upon the expiration of their notices of termination,” it said.

A suggested remedy, and “fairer” measure put forward by the Council is for legislation to “allow rent to increase to current market rental value at the next rent review and apply the 4% annual rental increase thereafter for three years”.

The Council has also called for an exemption for social housing supports in the rented sector, and in particular RAS and Leasing schemes where the Council has direct contractual arrangements with landlords.

CITY TRIBUNE

Concerns over reopening of Middle Arch on Tuesday

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A Galway City Councillor has given a cautious welcome but has also raised concerns over the reopening of the ‘Middle Arch’ beside the Claddagh Basin next Tuesday.

Access was closed to the public last May following requests from the Gardai due to large crowds that had gathered in the days previously amid fears of it becoming a serious health and safety risk.

The concerns were raised by Cllr. Niall McNelis who said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

He said “The decision to close it was earlier in year was due to it had become an area where large groups had gathered drinking and had led to calls by locals that it had become a serious health and safety risk. The area also does not have safety barriers and this has led to persons falling into the water in the past.

“Recently there has been a large number of calls made that the area should be reopened and that public space be made available to the public.”

Cllr. McNelis also said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

“We can not have the same scenes repeated as we did earlier this year and in previous years. House gardens and Claddagh church grounds were used as toilets and large amounts of litter mainly drink, was left behind. I have met a number of residents this weekend who are not happy with decision and calls have been made by them to have it closed in evenings by City Council and Gardai should assist in clearing area if needs be.

“We do not have enough Garda personnel to have proper policing in our city, we need more resources for the city to tackle and enforce anti social behaviour.

“I have met this week with Gardai and have been given assurances that this will be closely monitored and occasions such as exam results nights, freshers week and good weather will be monitored,” he said.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
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

Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault

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Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
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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