Third level experience lost to many forced to endure huge commutes
THE government has been urged by a West Clare student to take action to provide more affordable student accommodation in Galway City.
Fionn Sexton (21) has been forced to commute daily from Miltown Malbay to Galway City due to the lack of affordable student accommodation since September 6.
This involves getting the 7.55am bus from Miltown to Ennis, transferring on to the 9.25am bus from Ennis to Galway, arriving in the city for 10.40am.
Most of his morning lectures start after 11, apart from his Thursday lecture, which commences at 9am, forcing him to stay on a friend’s couch on Wednesday night.
He takes the 7.05pm bus from Galway to Ennis arriving at 8.20, but needs a lift from a family member to get home after 9pm.
“Commuting precludes me from a lot of things. I am a member of the book club and Ogra Fianna Fail in Galway, which have fallen by the wayside because of the sheer amount of time that is taken up just getting to and from college.
“It takes a lot of energy to get up early, have a shower and get ready for the bus. While I am on the bus I have to catch up on study that I couldn’t do the previous day or the previous week.
“A huge amount of my college life is taken up by commuting. I am lucky to be getting the Susi grant and can keep commuting until the Christmas exams.
“I will need to do a huge amount of study in Galway for these exams. I will either have to find a place or I will have to fork out for a hostel. Christmas will be the real crunch time.”
Despite searching for private rental accommodation since last March, he can’t find anywhere to stay within his price range.
Students can expect to pay between €550 to €650 per month for a double room, which can involve sharing accommodation with people they don’t know. The closer accommodation is to Galway City Centre, the more landlords will charge.
Now in his second year of a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Sociology, Fionn called on the government working with NUIG and the Students’ Union to subsidise student accommodation for students on low incomes.
He believes the government needs to prioritise the provision of more affordable student housing.
He said a lot of students are staying in hostels, which are not conducive to proper study.
Last year, Fionn stayed in Corrib Village, student accommodation on the North campus of NUIG, which was assigned on a computer lottery at one of the last rounds of offers.
This cost €5,700 for the full academic year in Galway.
Deputy Timmy Dooley said the accommodation shortage in Galway is the worst he has seen in years, in view of numerous representations to his constituency office.
“There is an accommodation shortage in Limerick and Galway. There is a higher social housing mix in Limerick compared to a lot of cities.
“Parents and students have decided they can’t afford Dublin rents, so they have opted for colleges outside of the capital.
“Colleges need to be creative and facilitate the construction of more affordable student accommodation. If it is not affordable, it will not be used.”
Describing Fionn’s commute as “outrageous”, he said it is important for students to live close to college to enjoy extra-curricular activities.
‘For students commuting every day, it is draining’
STUDENTS attending colleges in Galway are being forced to stay in hostels, hotels and bed and breakfasts due to the chronic lack of affordable accommodation, a local woman has claimed.
It took Niamh McGrath (22) from Barefield four months to find accommodation that was suitable for her own needs.
The Disability Rights’ Officer in the NUIG Students’ Union started looking for accommodation in May, as she had previously lived in student accommodation.
However, there was between seven and eight people per apartment, and she is regarded high risk for Covid-19.
Now in her third year of a Bachelor of Arts in Children’s Studies, Ms McGrath felt safer moving in with people in similar circumstances to herself with smaller numbers.
Her accommodation hunt included alerts on Rent.ie, Daft.ie and Facebook. She also had the additional difficulty of securing an accessible home for her wheelchair.
She is playing €340 rent monthly. This is for five people in a three-bedroom flat, which works out at €1,700 a month for rent alone; not including electricity, which is between €240-280 every two months or wi-fi, which is €50 per month.
She called on the government to provide more student housing.
“There is simply not enough affordable student-purpose accommodation. For students commuting every day, it is draining.
“Coming from Clare, the journey one way is an hour and a bit and then you have a day of lectures and other activities and then you have to get home again. That’s another hour and a bit.
“This isn’t including all the college work you have on top of this. Students are missing out on the college experience such as clubs and societies and different events around the city simply due to lack of accommodation.
“Unfortunately, a number of students have had to defer their year or drop out entirely due to lack of accommodation or they simply cannot afford the cost of high rents.
“This is extremely stressful for students entering into the academic year, particularly incoming first years, this should be the most exciting time of their lives.
“Students need reassurance that they will have somewhere safe to sleep and live. They need somewhere warm and free from damp and cold. They shouldn’t have to worry about catching a 4am bus or train so they can make their 9am lecture.
“The government need to make funding available to higher education institutions for them to make accessible and affordable accommodation. That comes first and foremost by not neglecting the housing crisis any longer. Student unions around Ireland warned of this crisis for years, and now we are here.
“There are several Airbnb in Galway at the moment that could easily be rented out to students at an affordable cost if the Government were to regulate it,” she said.
by Dan Danaher