Image curtesy of Galway Simon Community
There only two properties available across Galway City and suburbs for renters in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), a new report by the Simon Community has found.
The latest Locked Out report by the charity shows there were 43 properties available to rent in Galway City, but just two fell under the upper HAP limits.
In the suburbs of the city, the report found there were no rental properties available for those in receipt of HAP, out of a total of 33 rental properties on the market.
HAP is a form of social housing support for people with a long-term housing need or who are at risk of becoming homeless, whereby the local authority pays the landlord directly, and the tenant makes a weekly contribution to the council.
Each council has separate limits it will pay a landlord through HAP, and the upper limit in Galway is €900 per month, which is available to an adult or couple with three children.
Out of touch
“The HAP rates are out of touch with reality, and that’s true nationally, but it’s particularly acute in Galway,” said Wayne Stanley, national spokesperson for the Simon Community.
“There’s an immediacy and a need for HAP to be made effective. The rates have not been amended in the last couple of years, and it’s not a long-term sustainable option,” he said.
Galway’s rental market follows the national trend in the Locked Out report, which saw the number of rental properties increase, from 1,017 in October 2021 to 1,349 in December, but the number which fell under the HAP limits decrease in the same period from 190 to 148.
Local authorities also have 20 per cent flexibility to which they can stretch the upper limit of the HAP, except for the Dublin area, which has 50 per cent flexibility.
Mr Stanley wants to see this level of flexibility applied to all local authorities.
“We’re calling for the same discretion to be allowed in places like Galway, because rents have gone so far away from the HAP rates. We also need to look at the HAP rates themselves,” he said.
Cost of housing
Sinn Féin TD for Galway West, Mairéad Farrell, says the main issue with HAP is the cost of housing in the first place.
“The problem for HAP is that we have the highest rents in EU and these are rising. The government keep tell us it’s all about ‘supply, supply, supply’, but this doesn’t tackle the issue of affordability,” said Deputy Farrell.
“HAP is not enough to cover, and constantly increasing HAP just creates a dangerous situation of subsidies chasing rents ever upward. We need to lower the cost of housing,” she said.
Deputy Farrell says there is also an over-reliance on HAP by the state.
“The government needs to end its reliance on HAP. There needs to be massive direct state investment in affordable cost rental homes in order to deliver up to 4,000 units a year.”
The Simon Community’s Locked Out report found 72% of all properties available to rent were in Dublin City, while 80% of properties which fell under the HAP limits were in Dublin.
Deputy Mairéad Farrell believes Galway has a big problem with availability.
“Of course a lack of available properties is a bad problem for the city, but look at all the vacant and derelict buildings. This situation has been manufactured to choke supply, keep demand high and thus rents and prices rising.”