With the Leaving Certificate results less than a week away, the scramble for student digs in the city is about to begin in earnest – with hundreds of Galway students set to enter the rental market for the first time.
For four years now, Galway students have been facing an “accommodation crisis” with the demand for lettings far exceeding the numbers of available properties.
As revealed by this newspaper earlier this year, a number of students have been retaining rental properties for the duration of the summer to avoid house hunting for the new academic year.
This, coupled with rising rents, increased student numbers and the loss of large amounts of private property to professional tenants leaves students waiting on CAO offers in an almost impossible situation.
The problem is compounded by worsening traffic problems in the city – making commuting between city and county a very unattractive option.
Speaking to the Connacht Tribune, President of NUI Galway Students’ Union, Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh, said that problems were already arising – with the union being contacted by a number of students lamenting demands for extortionate deposits.
“The biggest problem so far seems to be the demand for huge payments up front this year – one girl was actually in touch saying that she had been asked by a landlord for €900 up front,” said Mr Ó Maoileannaigh.
The Students’ Union and the University have been working together to alleviate the problem, Mr Ó Maoileannaigh claimed.
“Your typical student accommodation in Galway, whether that’s Corrib Village, Gort na Coiribe, Dúnaras or wherever, is already full.
“We, both the Students’ Union and the college, have been reaching out to potential landlords to create digs – we hold information nights on the rent a room scheme which allows the landlord to take up to €12,000 tax-free.
“We had a financial expert in going through that – if people have one or two rooms to spare or their children have moved out, it’s a great opportunity to rent to a student,” said Mr Ó Maoileannaigh.
Meanwhile, Gardaí are warning students to be vigilant of scammers when looking for accommodation – with instances of disappearing landlords and lost deposits already being reported.
Mr Ó Maoileannaigh said that students were particularly vulnerable to this type of scam because in many cases, it is their first time dealing with landlords.
Kilconly man and President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Michael Kerrigan, urged students to be cautious.
“Use cheques or bank drafts to pay the deposit and keep copies of receipts of payments and any correspondence. Don’t hand over any cash to anyone because you will not have a record or trace of your deposit.
“It’s a shame that people are taking advantage of students like this. Students should visit the accommodation they’re hoping to rent before sending over any sum of money.
“Meet the landlord and ask for proof of identification if you’re unsure,” said Mr Kerrigan.
Mr Ó Maoileannaigh said that this was something first years should be particularly weary of given that they will be under tight time constraints.
“Our primary advice to first years would be to get looking online as soon as possible.
“A lot of people seem to have a negative viewpoint of digs but there are digs available and it is not something to be looked down on.
“A lot of purpose-built student accommodation will be booked out but it’s worth looking out for cancellations too.”
New, purpose-built student apartments are set to be available on Bohermore in the city this September with further private builds in the pipeline – as well as the expansion of NUI Galway’s Corrib Village.
GMIT and NUI Galway Students’ Unions have hit out at opposition to proposed student beds at the site of the Westwood Hotel.
GMIT Students’ Union, Mark O’Brien, stated: “The language used by residents that there shouldn’t be student accommodation in ‘our estates’ is a classic example of Not In My Backyard.
“Students have proven themselves to be valuable assets to any local community, and contribute to the local economy every day.
“We feel that councillors jumping in on this discriminatory blockade should have heard all sides of the story first.
“We have an accommodation crisis spreading through families, students and other groups with rents going through the roof. This number of beds will alleviate the pressure from the 20,000 students in GMIT and NUI Galway scrambling for somewhere to sleep.”