Modern problems require creative solutions. As for the unprecedented accommodation crisis affecting students in Galway, through the past few weeks the Student Union of the University of Galway decided to go knocking on Galwegians’ doors to ask them if they had spare rooms, second apartments, anything that could become a student’s home for the academic year.
“This idea came from us collaborating with all the Student Services in the University of Galway, such as the Counseling Service, the Mental Health support service, and some Socs and Clubs too,” explained Student Union President Sai Gujulla. “Altogether, we went knocking on all the doors of several estates. We wanted landlords to know about the seriousness of the crisis, make them aware that what may be just a spare room for them, could be a student’s home.”
People’s reaction to such a standpoint can be quite unpredictable. Mr. Gujulla described it as “kind of mixed”. Speaking to SIN, he said: “One day we met really welcoming landlords, the Accommodation Office got five calls in one hour from just that estate and we managed to secure five rooms. We also emphasized that they need to have a proper tenancy agreement in place. The next day people were not that open to the idea.” The Student Union President thinks it might also depend on the area of the city: families with children in Newcastle would easily understand the urgence of the situation, whereas student housing communities in Knocknacarra may already be packed with people and could not be any more helpful.
With the collected data and results, the Student Union is now considering whether the door-to-door initiative is a positive step to take for the future as well, and is collaborating again with the Student Services for the Student Swap Initiative. “If a student from Galway is going to UCD and a student from Dublin is moving to Galway, they may leave a spare room behind and could basically just exchange their accommodation,” explained Mr Gujulla. The SU also distributed flyers addressed to all the potential landlords, reading that whoever owns a room or an apartment could advertise it for free on the University Studentpad.
Regarding the increase of the dropping rate due to the accommodation crisis, the SU shares its thoughts: “Although more students addressed to our office for housing compared to the previous years, the number of people speaking to us about dropping has remained stagnant” said the President, “When they have no choice, they generally prefer commuting. We expect, though, that this may lead to more people taking that step in the future.”
On September 12, the SU also publicly talked to local TDs from Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and the Socialist Party in a public meeting at the Western Hotel. SU Vice President for Welfare and Equality, Imogen O’Flaherty spoke not only about accommodation, but of the constant rise of the cost of living in Galway. “A lot of people attended, and we received some positive reactions, especially from Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell”, commented Sai Gujulla.