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CITY TRIBUNE

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

Dara Bradley

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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

Galway City businesses determined to weather lockdown storm

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Despite devastation for city businesses this week amid a return to lockdown, many remain determined to weather the storm – and with the Council’s approval this week of additional measures to entice people to the city centre when restrictions ease, there is a hope that a good Christmas could save them.

Level 5 restrictions which came into force on yesterday (Thursday) have forced ‘unessential’ retailers to close their doors once again in an attempt by Government to get a handle on spiralling numbers of Covid-19.

And while those affected, mainly in the retail and hospitality sectors, are facing huge challenges to keep their heads above water, they had to remain positive that all was not lost if coronavirus could be got under control over the next six weeks.

Anthony Ryan, of the Galway City Business Association, said that while closing their clothes shops had been hugely disappointing, he had to remain optimistic.

“We just have to stay going and remain positive. Our clothes division is non-essential so that is temporarily closed, in line with the Government guidelines. Items necessary for households are essential so that means our home store remains open.

“Business had recovered quite well by September, but once Level 3 was introduced, there was a big fall off for everybody,” he told the Galway City Tribune.

Many businesses, including his own, had made huge strives to improve their online offering in recent months and it was his hope that people would continue to support local when they shopped online, even if they couldn’t get in to the physical stores.

“Online sales continue to be very strong. We hope to have our fashion website up in a couple of weeks, so there has been a lot of work going into that in the background,” said Mr Ryan.

Meanwhile, councillors this week backed a plan that will result in an overhaul of traffic flow in the city core – transforming Middle Street into a shared-surface and eliminating all cars not owned by residents on the street – ruling out full pedestrianisation due to residents’ requirements.
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

Plan for new cross-city public transport corridor go on display

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council is hopeful that a proposed new public transport corridor – linking the western and eastern suburbs through the city centre – could be ready to go for planning permission next year.

This week, a six-week public consultation process began on the ‘Cross-City Link’.

The Council is hopeful that a planning application could be submitted to An Bord Pleanála next year, and if approved, it would take 12-18 months to construct.

The Cross-City Link begins at the junction of University Road and Newcastle Road and continues across the Salmon Weir Bridge, through St Vincent’s Avenue, St Francis Street, Eglinton Street, Eyre Square, Forster Street, College Road and on to the Dublin Road.

“Through traffic, with no specific destination in the city centre, will be diverted,” the City Council said.

Uinsinn Finn, Senior Engineer with the Council said: “This corridor will connect homes with places of work, study, retail and recreation, with improved public transport journey times and reliability.

“High-quality public spaces, new and upgraded pedestrian and cyclist facilities and public transport priority will be provided, making it easier to move through the city, and to access destinations by sustainable means.

“This will create a safer place for pedestrians, cyclists and the mobility-impaired, and public transport services will move more freely. Deliveries and access to carparks will be facilitated, as will access to homes or businesses.

“The Council invites the public, landowners and other stakeholders to review the proposals, and to share their feedback,” said Mr Finn.

He said that schemes such as the new corridor are key projects and are “essential” to keeping the city moving.

“They are key to supporting sustainable travel modes and to support the ambitious targets for Galway as set out in the National Development Plan,” Mr Finn added.

He said it is anticipated the proposal can be submitted for planning consent next year, and subject to permission being granted, it would take 12-18 months to complete.
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

Pilot initiative will restrict car traffic around Galway City school

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have backed a proposal to restrict car traffic around Scoil Iognáid on Raleigh Row as part of a ‘School Streets’ pilot project.

The initiative, which involves a time-specific curtailment on cars at school drop-off and pick-up times, will result in the pedestrianisation of Raleigh Row, Palmyra Park and Palmyra Avenue – closed to traffic from 8.15am to 9.15am; and 1.15pm to 2.45pm.

Due to start on November 2, residents in the area will still be allowed access, but have been asked to “avoid using their car during the periods of pedestrianisation”, while those with blue badges will also be permitted to drive in the area.

Signage indicating the restrictions will be erected, while Gardaí and community wardens will enforce the pedestrianisation and parking respectively.

‘Park and Stride’ will be encouraged for getting children to school when no alternative is available, whereby parents park a short distance from the school and finish the remainder of the journey by foot – with registration enabling city school-goers’ parents to park for free in over 20 car parks.

Arlene Finn of the City Council’s Transport Department told councillors that 145 parents at Scoil Iognáid had already registered for this initiative, and by introducing the School Streets programme, the area would become infinitively safer and more appealing to parents and children wishing to walk or cycle to school.
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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