Students in houses with water running down damp bedroom walls

NUIG Student Union President Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh.

by Martha Brennan

One in six students started their college year at NUI Galway without a place to stay – a shocking indictment of the scale of the accommodation crisis now gripping the city.

And those desperate to secure a place have revealed a litany of cold, damp-riddled properties; some with water running down the walls, others with blocked fire exits – and many at exorbitant rents.

That’s according to NUI Galway Students Union Welfare Officer Megan Reilly, who said that the lack of rental space meant many students had to settle for whatever they could get.

“We just don’t have enough purpose-built accommodation for students in Galway. So they are fighting with professionals for houses and are willing to settle for a lot less – and landlords know this,” she said.

A survey of students found many having to sign up to year-long contracts and unfavorable living conditions. Nearly half of students picked their accommodation simply because they could not find anything else.

“We’ve had people in here to report water running down walls, blocked fire exits, insufficient heating. Landlords have all the power; students think they have no rights but they do,” said the Welfare Officer.

“I’m not villainising landlords, some are brilliant but there are the few taking advantage and students need to know their rights,” she added.

With no way to regulate prices, students are being forced to pay substantially high amounts for accommodation, which is difficult for the 42% that pay their own rent.

In a recent NUIG survey, 20% of students reported paying over €500 a month in rent which the Student Union President, Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh, called ‘extortionate’.

“It’s a student city; paying over €550 a month just isn’t acceptable,” he said.

Many saw rent hikes this year and felt they had no other choice but to cough up. One student said that his landlord upped his rent by €40 a month, for each of the eight tenants.

“We’re lucky to have a nice house so we can’t complain but €560 is a lot, especially when there’s so many of us in the house and the lease is year-long. But we have no choice but to pay it, we’re never going to find anything else,” he added.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.