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CITY TRIBUNE

‘Race and employment status’ discrimination in the rental market

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People of colour and those from a low socio-economic background are facing discrimination on the rental market, a local councillor has said.

According to Councillor Níall McNelis, a number of landlords were deliberately blocking the tenancy applications of people based on race or on employment status, but doing so in a way that made it difficult to prove.

The Labour councillor told the Galway City Tribune that this was forcing people to accept poor-quality but high-cost accommodation – and leaving those in existing tenancies fearing the ramifications if they highlighted any issues.

“A big issue is damp and tenants are afraid to give out because it’s such a precarious situation. I have been talking to families who have children with asthma, being made worse by the damp, but they’re afraid if they open their mouth, they’ll be evicted.

“And it’s worse, I’m afraid, if you’re a person of colour. Tenants are afraid to give out – if they’re a person of colour, or maybe one person in a household is out of work, there’s a fear that an eviction notice will land if a complaint is made,” said the former mayor.

This situation was being exacerbated, said Cllr McNelis, by the fact that there were hundreds of people ‘queuing up’ to take a property when it went on the market.

He said homelessness in the city was likely to worsen in the winter months as notices to quit were being issued ‘left, right and centre’ at the moment, as many landlords were offloading properties.

“The general trend is people in long-term rental properties, who have been there for quite some time, are being served with notices to quit. The problem here is that if a landlord decides to sell their property, the tenant has very few rights,” said the Labour councillor.

“A lot of landlords are looking at the economic situation and getting a small bit jittery about the housing market, so they’re trying to get out ahead of the full economic impact of Covid-19.”

National legislation was required to ensure that long-term tenants were provided with better security of tenure, meaning that they could maintain their tenancy even if a property was sold, said Cllr McNelis.

This increase in the level of evictions, coupled with the return of students in the coming weeks, would put extreme pressure on the private rental sector, he continued.

“My fear is that because we rely so heavily on private rental, this will worsen the situation and lead to more people falling into homelessness.

“When we talk about homelessness, we think of people on the streets, which is a desperately sad situation. But what people are not seeing is those people falling into emergency accommodation or sleeping on friends’ couches without a place to call their own,” said the Labour councillor.

“This is the worst time to be served with a notice to quit because we have the colleges returning, and this year will be worse than last year because the majority of students will be back on campus. We will have three full years’ worth of students who weren’t here last year, entering the rental market for the first time in many cases.”

If issued with a notice to quit, people should immediately seek help, said Cllr McNelis, by approaching Threshold and their local authority to alert them of their situation.

“Up until recently, in the Council, we had an issue where people were presenting with a notice to quit but they couldn’t access help until the eviction actually took place. Thankfully, that problem has been rectified and there is now a member of staff who will log them in advance and begin the work that might avoid someone ending up in emergency accommodation.

“The work being done by COPE and Galway Simon is exceptional and they are dealing with the really hard cases, but we need to be putting in place solutions so that people aren’t ending up at crisis point,” said Cllr McNelis.

“If issued with a notice to quit, people should go to Threshold immediately because what they are finding is a lot of those notices can be improper, and the landlord may not be complying with the legislation that’s there – people need to make sure they ask Threshold before doing anything.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport

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From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Work expected to start on Galway City cycleways next summer

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first six projects in the city’s major new cycle network are expected to begin construction by next June.

In an update on developments that are in train to improve the lot of cyclists, councillors at this week’s local authority meeting were told that the Martin Roundabout (near the Galway Clinic) would next be changed to a junction and the BusConnects, involving priority bus lanes from Moneenageisha to University Hospital Galway, were advancing.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved a raised cycle lane north of Railway Bridge on Doughiska Road South and for a shared street south of the bridge.

Eglinton Canal will turn into a shared cycle and pedestrian path. Four weeks of public consultation on both of these is set to begin in October, with the projects set to go to detailed design and tender following final NTA approval.

Ballybane, Castlepark and Bóthar Stiofáin Roads will also go to public consultation for “raised adjacent cycle schemes” a month after that.

The six projects are expected to begin construction by the end of June or early July next year.

Millars Lane is currently in preliminary design stage after clearing works were carried out last November.

Options are being examined and parking survey prepared for Threadneedle, Bishop O’Donnell, Dr Mannix, Devon Park, Salthill Road Upper and Lower Roads with input and designs from the Parkmore Strategic Framework awaited for the Monivea and Doughiska North Roads.

Active Travel Schemes had been approved in principle by the NTA for Ballyloughane and Clybaun South Roads, involving pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, signalisation of junctions and the integration of safe school routes.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) noted that the first quarter of 2021 was when some of these projects were to go to construction, according to a previous timetable.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Pamela’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Racecourse Park and Ride a non-runner for Christmas in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The lack of a park and ride service this Christmas will drive shoppers out of town at a time when businesses are struggling to recover from months in lockdown, the Mayor has warned.

This is after it was revealed that the City Council has failed to secure an alternative location for the service – with its usual base at Galway Racecourse out of action due to the ongoing vaccination programme.

The service, which had previously operated for the three-week period in the run up to Christmas, enabled motorists to park their cars in Ballybrit and take a return trip by bus to town at a cost of just €2 – taking hundreds of cars out of the city centre.

The Mayor, Cllr Colette Connolly, said it was ‘completely ludicrous’ that it would not be in operation this year, in a city that was already gridlocked with car traffic.

“I think that it is a retrograde step not to proceed with the Christmas Park and Ride because we know what will happen – we’ve seen before what happens at the Corrib Centre around Christmas where traffic backs up and people get stuck in the car park,” said the Mayor.

This would result in shoppers from outside the city avoiding coming in, while others would go to other towns and cities to avoid traffic misery.

“They will go to Limerick or to Dublin, which is only two-and-a-half hours away. They will go to Athlone, because they may as well go there, rather than spend two hours sitting in traffic on Lough Atalia,” added the Independent councillor.

In Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath’s report to councillors, it is stated that “it is looking unlikely that Galway City Council will be able to run the Christmas Park and Ride in 2021”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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