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‘Nothing is being done’

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MINISTER CAN NO LONGER TURN A BLIND EYE Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh, Sinn Féin.

Calls for action as 62 in Mayo emergency accommodation – and more on streets

Oisín McGovern

SIXTY-TWO homeless people are currently in emergency accommodation in Mayo, The Mayo News has learned. The figures have prompted calls for urgent action to address the ongoing housing shortage, which one elected represented has described as ‘desperate’.
Figures obtained by this newspaper reveal that there are 38 adults and 24 children currently accessing emergency accommodation in the county. This figure does not include refugees from Ukraine, those living in direct provision, or those sleeping rough in the county. A total of 86 people have presented as homeless to Mayo County Council in 2022, compared to 95 in all of 2021.
The Mayo News can also reveal that 101 people with Mayo addresses have sought the assistance of housing charity Threshold up until July this year.
In 2021, 181 people from the county sought its services for the first time.
Castlebar Municipal District Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said that he was ‘appalled’ by the figures and accused the Government and Mayo County Council of not doing enough to address the issue of housing.
The council is planning to deliver over 1,000 housing units by the end of 2026 under the Government’s Housing For All programme.

‘Appalled’
Cllr Kilcoyne believes that this will not be enough to stem the flow of people in need of housing. He also claims that the numbers in emergency accommodation did not reflect the true number of people who are homeless in Mayo.
“On and off, there are a couple of people who are sleeping in sleeping bag in the middle of Main Street [in Castlebar]. I know people that are sleeping in cars,” Cllr Kilcoyne said yesterday (Monday).
“I’m just appalled that nothing is being done about it. Nothing is being done by the County Council and nothing is being done by the Government.”
Cllr Kilcoyne called for measures including a cap on rent increases and a ban on evictions to alleviate the increasing costs of rent in the county.

Rent rises
The most recent Daft.ie survey revealed that the average rent in Mayo was €983, a 16 percent increase in one year. As of yesterday (Monday), there were 22 properties available to rent on Daft.ie in the entire county.
“Places in Castlebar they are looking for €1,500 or €1,600 a month. You’d make your repayments on a huge mortgage if you were paying that per month,” Cllr Kilcoyne said.
“One of the big things that’s contributing to [homelessness] is the huge increases being imposed by many landlords. That’s forcing people out on the street because they can’t pay the rent.”
Mayo County Council’s Director of Services for Housing Tom Gilligan said that the number presenting as homeless in 2021 was affected by the temporary ban on evictions put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Threshold’s Policy Officer Ann Marie O’Reilly told The Mayo News that an increasing number of clients were presenting after being given notice to quit their rental property.
“Generally speaking, things do seem to be getting worse,” she said yesterday evening (Monday).
“A lot of our calls have been calls from people who have received that notice of termination from the landlord.
“Up until the moratorium in Covid-19 a good number of cases the person would be given adequate time to find a place to move to when there were places to move to.
"What we are finding this year is that a lot more of the people coming to us are coming because they have received that notice of termination.
“A large number of those cases are valid, they have to move out and that’s it. What we’re seeing is there isn’t anywhere to move to. That is really putting significant pressure on people. That is creating a far more dire situation.”

‘Shocking’ hike
Mayo Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh described the case of one Westport family who recently had their rent increased from €970 to €1,650 as ‘shocking’.
Deputy Conway-Walsh has written to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien seeking an urgent meeting regarding the housing situation in Mayo.
She called for measures including the fast-tracked delivery of social and affordable homes and for Westport to be designated as a Rent Pressure Zone, which would limit rent increases to 4 percent.
“The Minister can no longer turn a blind eye to the housing crisis in Mayo,” she said.
“We need immediate action to address the situation and protect this [Westport] family and all the other families that are being crucified by skyrocketing rents and lack of availability.”
Across the state, the number of homeless people in emergency accommodation reached a record high of 10,568 last week.

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If you are concerned about your housing situation, contact Threshold on 0818 076 040 to book an appointment at its outreach clinic in the Citizens Information Office, Castlebar, held on the third Wednesday of each month.