Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell has warned that “we need purposeful accommodation at affordable prices” to address Galway’s student housing crisis.
The Galway West TD told SIN that over 3,000 students in Galway are either staying in hostels or commuting long distances to third-level institutions.
Galway’s student population has been hit hard by the housing crisis issue, and seems to have been heightened due to the pandemic, an issue that Deputy Farrell has recently raised in the Dáil.
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform said that students are reaching out to her because they “can’t find anywhere to stay” or that “rents are far too high.”
“Many students are couch surfing, staying in hostels or trying to commute,” said Deputy Farrell. “It’s obviously very difficult for students when they are trying to balance college life and the stress of trying to find somewhere to live.”
Deputy Farrell said that the student housing crisis had exposed the high number of vacant buildings across Galway City, an issue that Sinn Féin has recently raised in the Dáil.
According to Deputy Farrell, there are 7,000 vacant sites across the city, despite thousands of people currently homeless.
“There should be a tax for keeping these sites vacant,” she said. “It is absolutely scandalous that we have all these vacant sites in Galway City when there are so many people homeless.”
Meanwhile, the Government is introducing a new zoned land tax, which will replace the existing vacant site levy and will target unused residential-zoned land.
The new tax will be set at 3 per cent of the land’s market value.
However, Deputy Farrell said that the minimum two-year lead-in time before the new tax is applied is too long.
She has called for the government to clamp down on vacant sites and that, in her opinion, people are being encouraged to leave them empty.
“The problem is at the moment it is in the financial interest of those hoarding these vacant sites to keep them vacant,” said the Sinn Féin TD.
Deputy Farrell also said that rents are “far too high and are allowed to go up” and that the Government needs to implement a rent freeze and a ban on price increases for the next three years.
In Galway City, the average asking rent is almost €1,400 per month, according to the latest figures.
The Government’s response is the introduction of rent pressure zones in cities, but people want a complete ban on rent increases, according to Deputy Farrell.