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Connacht Tribune

Homeless charity wants crackdown on Airbnb



A local homeless charity has called for a tightening of the regulations around Airbnb with over 2,000 Galway homes being let to visitors – half of them entire homes and over a third on a full-time basis according to an analysis of listings.

Cope Galway said it firmly believed that Airbnb – the giant online service allowing people to lease or rent short-term lodging – was contributing to the homelessness crisis.

In the same week that just 118 homes in all of Galway were advertised for rent on the website, there were a total of 2,212 active Airbnb rentals across Galway City and County.

Of these, 52% were the full properties and 38% were being let full-time, according to data collated by AirDNA, which analyses public information about Airbnb’s listings.

Cope Galway’s assistant CEO, Martin O’Connor, said the data shows the heaviest concentration of properties was in the city and in tourist hotspots such as Connemara.

“In 2017 the number of hosts renting on Airbnb started to climb massively. Anecdotally we’re hearing of blocks of apartments in the city being rented on Airbnb and people setting up a business,” he remarked.

“These are properties that were given planning permission as residential not as accommodation providers such as hotels or B&Bs which must comply with fire regulations.

“You have the ironic situation of tourists living in homes while people without homes are having to live in B&Bs and hotels.

“The introduction of measures to disincentivise the full-time use of homes for Airbnb purposes and the enforcement of planning laws already on the statute books are measures the government can take now.

“While we understand that revenue from Airbnb is an important source of income for struggling homeowners, our concern is that accommodation which is available all year round and in the form of entire homes, is accommodation taken out of the rental market.”

There were 259 people classed as homeless in Galway on the fourth week of March according to the latest available figures from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

This does not include the numbers of rough sleepers who engage with Cope Galway – currently between ten and twelve a night – or the ‘hidden homeless’ who couch-surf with friends and family.

Airbnb disputes the accuracy of the data, claiming entire home listings in Galway last year represented just 0.7% of the available housing stock.

“This report uses inaccurate scraped data to make misleading assumptions about our community. The vast majority (70%) of hosts in Ireland share the home in which they live. The Airbnb model is unique and empowers regular people and boosts local communities, generating over €506 million in economic activity in Ireland last year,” said a spokesperson.

In Galway last year, the typical host on Airbnb earned €5,100 and hosted for less than 4 nights per month – showing that it is only occasional activity

“Many individual hosts are not able to manage their own listing, for example when they are away on holiday or at work, so they ask a management company to take care of bookings on their behalf. In data scrapes, these would show as one individual with multiple listings, when in reality these listings belong to many different hosts. Similarly, a host may manage both their own listing and the listing of a neighbour or friend.

“The platform also has some licensed boutique hotels and serviced apartments listing their spaces, as the platform offers them the opportunity to reach a wider and more diverse audience than traditional offline advertisements. Many of these are listed as entire homes.”

In London, hosts cannot rent out entire homes for more than 90 days per year without official consent from their council. In Paris, registration for short-term lettings is now mandatory and must be no longer than 120 days a year; Barcelona has suspended all new short-term rental permits; Amsterdam has cut its permitted short-term lettings limit from two months a year to one; and hosts in Berlin are only permitted to rent out their property for half of the year.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is overdue in publishing a report by a departmental working group examining whether new regulations are needed for lettings websites.

An Bord Pleanála ruled in 2016 that using residential apartments for short-term lets was a “change of use” and required planning permission.

Following the ruling, the government issued guidelines to councils last year limiting apartment owners to letting their property in the short term for 60 nights in a year.

The guidelines said flat owners could not rent flats for more than five nights in a row and no more than two rooms in an apartment can be occupied each night, with a guest limit of four people a night.

Martin O’Connor said it was clear from the Galway data these guidelines were not being enforced.

“The number of properties continuously in Airbnb use shows they’re certainly not in compliance with department guidelines. For us, really, the issue is the acute shortage of accommodation here while there is an extraordinarily high number of Airbnbs.”

Connacht Tribune

Locals in fundraising drive to protect some of Connemara’s finest beauty spots



The world-famous beaches Gurteen Bay and Dogs Bay will disappear unless work is carried out immediately to save them for the next generation.
A local conservation committee has been set up which is fundraising to carry out the work in September. They plan to remove the old fencing from the headland, which is dangerous for people and animals.
They will also want to install new fencing on the headland to keep animals off the sand dunes and to have clear access pathways to people to enjoy the dunes without causing them damage.
Sustainable chestnut fencing is then needed to re-establish the sand dunes and to save them from further collapse.
Finally the hope to replant marram grass to further stabalise the dunes.
Kieran Mullen, owner of the Gurteen Bay caravan and camping park, explained that the work was so urgent that they cannot wait another year to carry it out.
“Atlantic storms are becoming more frequent and powerful. If they find a weakness in the dunes a one metre gap is created. The next storm that widens to two and three metres and soon they’re gone forever,” he remarked.
“I know people might say I’m doing this because they’re part of my livelihood but these beaches are key to the bigger economy of Connemara. Everyone’s tied into tourism here – the shops, the builders. It only takes one influencer to post a picture on Instagram and the next week the place is packed.”
His father Pat, along with James Conneely and Joe Rafferty, undertook extensive projects such as planting marram grass, erecting fencing and stone gabions along one section of Dogs Bay beach back in the 1990s. They managed to protect and regenerate part of a highly degraded dune system.
“If it wasn’t for the huge amount of work they did back then, the beaches wouldn’t be here today. There was an Italian electrical company who came in and took away 50 tonnes of sand and my father stopped them at the gate and made them drop it off.
“They filmed Into The West here and the film donated some money to the beach and that’s how they paid for a lot of the work.”
The committee is meeting with planners to secure an exemption on planning for the work.
“Time is not on our side so that’s why we’ve gone ahead to raise the money and hope to get it done in September when the place is quieter.”
Both beaches, located outside Roundstone, regularly make the list of top 100 beaches of the world by travel guides.

To make a donation, visit GoFundMe page.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway passengers are all smiles at Shannon!



Shannon Airport
Shannon Airport

The smiles on the faces at Shannon Airport very much told its own story this week – with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.

And it wasn’t just the joy of travel starting to resume that lifted spirits at the airport but also the announcement by Ryanair of a new once-weekly service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) to commence on August 7 – the third new service announcement for Shannon Airport over recent weeks.

There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures in a ‘back-to-the-future’ day for the West of Ireland gateway airport.

There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to Gatwick.

Among those boarding was Clarenbridge native Claire Tomlin and her husband Jake, together with their three children, including their twins who turn a year old next week.

“It’s been amazing to get back. The kids saw their grandparents for the first time and their cousins and aunties and uncles, so it was fantastic,” said Claire.

“Shannon is just so convenient for us because it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive. So, it just makes everything a lot easier in terms of getting to and from places with little ones. So, yeah, Shannon is a great resource for us. Really, really good. We hope to be able to go back more and more.”

It was smiles all around for Shannon Airport staff as they got back to doing what they do best. “Well, today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they’re glad to be back, they’re glad to get up in the sky again,” said Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan.

“It’s great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they’re very at ease.”

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By



A man lies on a bed of nails at the opening of Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road, on October 26, 1972


Silence is golden

Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.

During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.

Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.

“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”

Good planning

The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.

The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.

The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.

We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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