Call for Galway City Council to cap number of Airbnbs

Only tourists can afford to rent in Galway city, housing debate hears

Galway city centre. Due partly to the number of third-level colleges, Galway has one of the highest tenancy rates in the State.  Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Galway city centre. Due partly to the number of third-level colleges, Galway has one of the highest tenancy rates in the State. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Galway is fast becoming a city where “only tourists can afford to rent a bed”, a debate on housing has heard.

The Government’s rent-pressure zone legislation is “not working”, as there is no effective monitoring of landlords who cite “refurbishment or sale” to replace tenants at a property, a newly formed housing support group in Galway claimed.

Speaking at a debate on housing at the Galway Feminist Collective Festival on Saturday, Eadaoin de Faoite of the Galway Housing Support Group said many city-centre apartments and houses formerly rented by students were now registered as Airbnbs.

Galway City Council needed to take action to cap the number of Airbnbs, similar to systems introduced in several European cities, Ms de Faoite told the seminar.

Galway city has been a rent-pressure zone since January 2017, as one of a number of designated areas including Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Cork, where rent increases are capped at 4 per cent annually over a three-year period.

Due partly to the number of third-level colleges, Galway has one of the highest tenancy rates in the State, but Ms de Faoite said many tenants were being forced further and further out of the city, similar to the situation in Dublin.

Community response

She said that a community response was required, similar to that which has already happened in Dublin, where vulnerable tenants receive support from housing campaign groups.

Ms de Faoite said gentrification and a focus on private commercial development of city-centre office spaces and hotels was turning Galway into a “city for tourists only”.

Anny Cullum of the Acorn tenants’ union in Bristol, England, and Thomas Lynch and Aisling Bruen of Dublin Central Housing Action said community support for tenants could prove particularly effective.

Acorn was formed in Bristol four years ago when rents began to rise as people were forced out of London, and its actions range from practical supports for tenants, to direct action, to picketing letting agencies and staging protests in banks.

Ms Bruen and Mr Lynch said the current occupation of a house in Summerhill parade in Dublin aimed to highlight the need to protect vulnerable tenants from forced evictions, and the need for local authorities to use compulsory purchase order legislation to acquire vacant properties.

‘Focal point’

The protest was “different” to the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin city centre in December 2016, in that no one person was staying in the building for any length of time.

The occupation has been a “hub” and a “focal point” for the homelessness crisis, Ms Bruen and Mr Lynch said.

“We want to encourage other groups to set up occupations... we need it to snowball,” they said.

Recent Department of Housing figures for Galway showed an increase in the number of families living in emergency accommodation, with 82 families including 233 children in May 2018.

A “one day census” on June 22nd, 2018, by the homeless non-governmental organisation Cope Galway showed 160 households, comprising 82 families with 221 children, five couples and 73 single people were either accommodated by it or in other emergency accommodation, while 16 people were sleeping rough and a further 15 families and five single people were at immediate risk of homelessness or “sofa surfing” with family and friends.