As 19,000 students return to the University of Galway many are left stressed and hopeless due to the accommodation crisis.
Imogen O’Flaherty Falconer, the Students’ Union Vice President for Welfare and Equality says that she has felt “helpless” against the volume of students reaching out for help this year.
Falconer recounts how dire the situation is, with many students having nowhere to live and others working tirelessly to keep up with soaring rent prices, leaving them isolated and anxious.
EoghanMacDomhnaill, Service Manager with Jigsaw believes that the student impact of the situation in Galway has surpassed the crisis in Dublin.
He said that while the issue is not explicitly presenting itself in Jigsaw services presently he expects “it will be massive down the line”.
The issue is particularly alarming for the 4,000 first year students starting their studies next week. One such student, Rowan Russell, has been actively seeking accommodation since February to no avail.
Russell recounts how stressful the situation has been for him and his twin brother who live in West Cork and are considering bringing up a caravan to park in the outskirts of Galway as a last resort.
In a similar vein, one of the 3,300 international students attending the University, Kennedy Tanner, recalls how worrisome it has been to travel to Ireland from Canada with a tent in hand and no accommodation awaiting her arrival.
“Moving your entire life to a new country is a big deal and if you’re unsure you’ll have a bed to lay your head on it can be very nerve-wracking.”
A potential solution was proposed by Professor Padraic Kenna and Law student Áine Dillon in a report on student accommodation in Ireland in comparison to other European countries.
Professor Kenna sets out a trajectory to make rent more affordable to students through government subsidies and the incorporation of a socially constructed student housing association.
This idea can be seen in practice in countries like Germany where there are student focused rather than profit driven accommodation options.
Professor Kenna said that “there is a roadmap made” but wondered who would use it,s highlighting the need for urgent government action.