More than 50 Galway housing estates won’t have to pay €100 charge
By SIOBHÁN HOLLIMAN
OWNERS of houses in more than 50 residential estates throughout Co Galway won’t have to pay the controversial €100 household charge this year.
There are 57 developments varying in size from fewer than 20 houses to more than 200 units that have been judged to be unfinished housing estates. Only one of these is located in the city.
The owners of residential property located in prescribed unfinished housing estates qualify for a waiver of the new fee, which is to go towards funding local authorities such as Galway Co Council and Galway City Council.
However there are question marks over how the estates were chosen as house owners in some estates, which appear to be virtually finished, won’t have to pay while others, where half-built homes stand idle and roadways, footpaths and utilities are unfinished are being told they will have hand over the €100 fee.
A stark indicator of the backlash of the property boom is that five of the unfinished estates from the 56 around the county that qualify for the waiver are in the rural community of Williamstown.
In Tuam, there are four estates on the waiver list but some certainly appear to be more unfinished than others. Properties that aren’t liable for the household charge in Tuam are in Clochran, Kilcloghans; Cricket Court, Dunmore Road; Bealach na Gaoithe, Galway Road; Tír an Chóir, Vicars Choroland.
The list omits Carrigweir on the Weir Road which was assessed as an incomplete development with no activity during last October’s National Housing Survey.
When asked how estates were assessed for the waiver, a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment told The Herald that it was through joint discussions between the Department and the local authorities. He said that it was roughly based on last year’s survey but that that list was “a moveable feast”.
However a spokesperson for Galway Co Council told The Herald that they contacted the Department this week stating that they are unhappy with the final list, which they hadn’t seen before, and that it doesn’t reflect the reality in estates.
It appears there has been a huge amount of misunderstanding between local authorities and the Department with regard to categorising the estates.
It is difficult to understand how Carrigweir, where the developer’s wooden hoarding continues to surround the estate’s entrance and where a large stock of half-built houses are clearly visible from within the estate, doesn’t qualify whereas property in Bealach na Gaoithe where all footpaths are in place, roadway surfaces are finished and no unfinished houses are visible does qualify for a waiver.
A phonecall to the household charge helpline confirmed that the estate on the Weir Road is not on the waiver list and property owners there will have to pay the €100 charge by March 31.
According to the household charge website, estates assessed as being in category three and four qualify for the waiver. These are where a receiver has not been appointed and the developer is still in place, but effectively inactive, and where the development has been effectively abandoned and is posing serious problems for residents.
Galway Co Council had categorised Carrigweir as category one in terms of safety and said the developer was deemed active on site as houses are still being sold there.
Other estates on the waiver qualifying list in North Galway are Lorro Gate, The Willows and Pairc na Rí in Athenry, Woodview Crescent in Clonbern, The Fairways, Dunmore, The Orchard, Moylough, Pairc na gCon, Mountbellew, Cúirt na hAbhann and Gleann Mhuiris in Claregalway and Eallagh in Headford.
There are also a number of unfinished estates in Loughrea that aren’t liable for the household charge as well as in Ballinasloe, Oughterard, Portumna, Moycullen, Kinvara, Spiddal, Oranmore, Clarinbridge and Craughwell.
The Department of the Environment said there is no formal appeal process but suggested that an individual could write to the Minister and ask him directly for an explanation as to why a particular estate isn’t included in the waiver list.
The introduction of the household charge has already sparked public protests in Galway city where a crowd of about 80 people protested at City Hall on Monday afternoon calling for people to boycott the €100 charge.
Property that qualifies for a waiver must still be registered and readers are advised to check with the household charge helpline and website to clarify the status of the houses they own.
While those who own the properties in the waiver list of unfinished estates will be glad to hear they will not have to pay the new charge, the waivers are a loss of funding for Galway Co Council which the household charge has been set up to help finance.