Galway's housing shortage is reaching crisis proportions as more than 25,000 students descend on the city seeking accommodation for the college year.
Those lucky enough to find a place over the coming weeks will certainly pay for it, with the latest report by Daft. ie showing that rent costs in the city have shot up by more than 10 per cent in the past year. The increasing rent costs are exacerbating an already serious accommodation crisis, and will only serve to make a bad situation worse.
Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East Michael Kitt says students are facing a particularly difficult challenge in finding a place to stay for the college year ahead because of a combination of rising rents and a shortage of supply.
"The country is in the grip of a housing crisis, and that is having a major knock-on effect on the availability of accommodation for students.
“The latest report from Daft.ie shows a major jump in rental costs in the city and county. This will heap additional pressure on to students and their parents to fork out high rents to ensure a roof over their heads. Students are competing with families and professionals for properties in the city, but the reality is there are simply not enough affordable places to cater for the numbers who need a place to stay.
"The Minister for Education had promised to publish a report into the student accommodation crisis last April; four months on and there’s still no sign of it. Meanwhile students are facing the prospect of lengthy commutes or exceptionally expensive rents because Minister Jan O’Sullivan has failed to prioritise this area.
“New measures must be introduced to ensure that quality affordable student accommodation is built, and I am urging Minister O’Sullivan to publish the HEA report without delay so that the recommendations can be acted on before this crisis deepens any further.”
The shortfall in housing and rising rent costs in the city have also spelt bad news for other inhabitants. The Galway Simon Community recently warned that the homeless and housing crisis is now out of control and will continue to escalate. The charity has called on the Government to urgently increase rent supplement limits and to introduce rent certainty.
Bill Griffin, CEO of Galway Simon Community, says details of Daft’s report are extremely disturbing. "This is an emergency happening right here in Galway as in other parts of the country. We see the devastating impact of rising rents and reduced supply every day. People on low incomes and those in receipt of rent supplement can no longer afford rental payments.
"It’s inevitable we will see even more people turning to us for help unless the housing crisis is urgently addressed. As rents continue to rise, the numbers of properties available have reduced significantly and are now at the lowest levels of availability in a decade. The Government must intervene urgently to alleviate the crisis before the onset of winter.
Rent supplement and the Housing Assistance Payment limits must be increased, the decision last March by An Tánaiste and the Department of Social Protection to leave rent supplement limits unchanged must be urgently reviewed, he says.
"As rents continue to increase, the gap between the rent supplement levels and the market rate grows even wider. Rent certainty measures promised by Minister Alan Kelly earlier this year must be introduced as a matter of urgency. An increase in these limits coupled with rent certainty would protect against market inflation.”
A Simon Communities snapshot study from May, entitled Locked Out of the Market, looked at the gap between rent supplement levels and market rents. There was an average of 104 properties to rent in Galway city centre over the three day period the exercise was carried out.
The study showed that of those properties, only two were available to rent within the rent supplement limit for a single person, three for a couple, 14 for a couple or single parent with one child, and three for a couple or single parent with two or more children.
Griffin said the biggest challenge right now is access to "appropriate, affordable, housing". Unless urgently addressed, he warned that more people will suffer and more people will become homeless.