Galway City Council has called on the Government to declare a state of emergency in relation to housing.
The move comes as increasing number of people experience homelessness in the west, with a shortage of rental properties causing significant distress for many others.
More than 4,000 people are on the council’s housing waiting list and a surge in the number of properties available for short-term letting has dramatically reduced the available stock of apartments and houses for rent.
The local authority has called for a significant increase in capital spending on public housing and wants the Government to increase Part V requirements in planning law, so that 20% of all new developments would be allocated for social and affordable housing.
Over the last four years, those working to provide housing say there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people in need of emergency accommodation.
Galway City Council’s monthly spend on emergency housing has increased ten-fold in recent years.
While it used to cost in the region of €25,000 per month, €250,000 is now being spent on hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation, bringing the annual total to around €3 million.
COPE Galway, which handles the bulk of emergency accommodation on behalf of the council, says 84 families, including 217 children, are being put up in temporary accommodation this week.
An additional 85 single people and five couples are also being provided with emergency housing.
The organisation’s assistant CEO, Martin O’Connor, says there is an urgent need for additional social housing in the city. While steps are being taken to address the need, he says it will take at least 18 months before this brings any significant impact.
A fall off in new housing developments during the recession and a surge in visitor numbers in recent years have combined to create a perfect storm in relation to the provision of housing.
The added pressure of a huge student population means rental properties are often snapped up within minutes of being offered.
Many landlords have opted to let apartments and houses on websites like Airbnb. Key boxes outside countless city centre dwellings highlight the booming short term rental market.
Others spend months seeking alternative accommodation, when they receive notice to leave existing lease arrangements. Among them, Anna Hydzik, who moved to Galway with her husband and three children in 2010.
Despite having the benefit of three salaries, references and a security deposit, she has been looking for a house to rent since last September.
Ms Hydzik said she is "addicted to letting websites" which she checks at least five times each day, to see if there are any fresh leads.
The pressure of the lengthy search takes its toll. She describes how the constant rejection leaves her feeling dejected and with nowhere to turn.
Frustration at the impact of existing policies led to protests in Galway this week.
The Raise the Roof rally in Eyre Square heard calls for greater Government intervention and significant increases in the provision of social housing.
Campaigners are hoping the issue will be centre stage in next month’s local elections.