The Minister talks about throwing figures around but we have to accept there is a serious situation, given so many people are in emergency accommodation and 1,500 children are homeless. There is a need for more housing and a need to accept this is the worst housing crisis since the 1930s, with increasing homelessness throughout the country, and not just in Dublin as I can give examples from County Galway, particularly Galway city.
The ESRI referred to 25,000 houses a year being needed, a figure we should highlight. There is also an issue about bed-sits which I understand the Minister is addressing. It is very important when there is a significant number of single people looking for housing that this type of housing would be available. With regard to local authorities, the Minister spoke about refurbishment and I hope this will happen. A figure was given of 2,600 local authority houses lying empty. These could certainly be refurbished or renovated, and we have given examples in Galway where this could be done.
When we hear the organisations that are lobbying us talk about the difficulties they are facing, we have to look at what can be done to help people, particularly those living in the private rented sector. I have received correspondence from Threshold outlining that it has helped over 20,000 people and prevented almost 3,000 tenant households from becoming homeless. It has pressed very hard for legislation to be brought into the Dáil and I hope that will happen. The Simon Community and the Peter McVerry Trust have referred to the challenges they are facing. Focus Ireland set up action teams in 2012, when an average of eight new families were presenting as homeless in Dublin every month. Therefore, these organisations are taking the matter very seriously.
For other areas, one need only look the figures provided by www.daft.ie, which refers to a 12% increase in rent in Galway city over a period of three months from July 2015 to September 2015. In fact, there was a 10% increase in rent in County Galway for the same three-month period. I hope the Minister will deal with the question of the supply of housing, particularly as the number of properties available for rent in Galway and other counties is falling while rents are increasing, and this is particularly the case in towns within seven to ten miles of Galway city.
The waiting list for housing in Galway is now put at 3,300 and there are 800 applicants to come into the county from the city. In Galway city itself, the waiting list of applicants for housing is over 4,000 people. I would welcome any effort that can be made to begin construction of the 54 houses that were sanctioned for County Galway this year and, if the council gets the money to purchase houses, I hope that will happen.
If we do not deal with the rent issue, many families will lose their accommodation. Many families are already stuck in mortgage debt, which means the banks will not deal with them. I hope that we deal with the question of rent supplement, which we have been pressing for some time. The motion refers to a plan of public investment involving the councils and NAMA to build 100,000 social and affordable homes, including Traveller-specific accommodation, which is very important.
Another group that is often forgotten is that of students, who have been finding it very hard every year, particularly this year, to get accommodation. We had some excellent campus accommodation but we now seem to be stopping that. Third level colleges have a role to play in developing this proposal. I understand the Higher Education Authority has reported on the issue and I do not see why we cannot have more student accommodation. In fact, a student who is today living in a city or a town with a third level college where he or she can study is very lucky. We should not lose sight of this issue.
We all know bed and breakfasts and hotels are not appropriate for families with children, and children often have to move schools as a result of homelessness. I hope the Minister will work with the voluntary housing bodies and allow the funding that should be in place to be provided in order to allow the councils to proceed with their programmes.