A Galway city councillor has called on the Government to expand the tax incentive attached to the "rent a room" scheme as one way of easing the accommodation crisis.
Labour Party councillor Niall McNelis says the facility, which allows people to earn up to €12,000 tax-free a year from renting a room, is "not sufficient".
College students, people moving to Galway and the impact of the rent cap on families receiving State assistance in private accommodation is putting extraordinary pressure on the existing housing stock in Galway, Mr McNelis says.
“The rent a room scheme in private homes is a good idea, but the tax relief incentive isn’t enough – it should be increased, or some other measure brought in to make it more encouraging,” he says, adding that areas of the city close to the third-level colleges should be targeted for students.
Tenants awaiting housing are being squeezed out by the rent cap on State-supported private rented accommodation, and by the fact that buy-to-let properties are being repossessed and put up for sale by banks. As a result, Galway City Council’s expenditure on emergency accommodation has gone from €335 in January to €25,000 in July.
Jacqueline O’Grady (26), a mother of three from Ballybane, is one of some 4,475 people on Galway city’s housing list, and is currently in student accommodation which she must move out of next week.
Ms O’Grady is rearing twins, aged two, and a four-year-old girl on her own. She says she has been on the housing list since 2008, and hasn’t had a first offer to date.
Meanwhile, in Sligo, there are 1,100 on the housing list, a figure which the accommodation services manager with Sligo Social Services said “speaks for itself”. Des Dunbar said: “That’s one in 20 of the population of Sligo town.”
Independent county councillor Declan Bree said things have never been so bleak. “I am on the council for four decades and I have never witnessed anything like this. ”
His colleague, Sinn Féin mayor of Sligo Thomas Healy, said landlords’ reluctance to accept people on rent allowance is exacerbating the crisis.
Students are faring much better in Sligo than elsewhere. “There is actually an oversupply of purpose-built student accommodation,”said Cillin Folan, president of the student union at IT Sligo.