Floating student accommodation: a bizarre solution to the student housing crisis?

Winters Property Management and Bibby Maritime are discussing the option of bringing two barges into Galway harbour to house up to 400 students, according to Galway Bay FM. This rather unusual form of housing could prove very effective in trying to combat the shortage of accommodation for students. While unorthodox from an Irish perspective, barges such as these are commonplace across Europe, especially in crowded cities. The barges could arrive within three weeks which is a quicker solution than building more purpose-built student accommodation on campus.

The Bibby Stockholm barge features a restaurant, a gym and ensuite bathrooms, which is more than what is currently being offered in private rented houses. However, is this really a viable alternative? Galway students in the past have had a tragic relationship with water, especially the fast-flowing river Corrib. Are floating barges really safe? We have to remember that a lot of students walk home after nights out, and even during broad daylight, accidents can happen when water is involved.

Bibby usually provide for corporate events, meaning that guests would not be staying for extended periods of time. In order to provide for student needs, a redesign will hopefully be proffered. It is important to remember that all you get is a bedroom with an en suite, not a kitchen or living room. Is this ‘solution’ just a glorified, floating hostel?

SIN headed out on campus to get students’ reactions, and were met with some mixed feelings on the matter.

Third-year Earth and Ocean Science student Shane McQuillan was of the opinion that “it is an amazing idea… anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t looked at it properly or just can’t swim”.

Other students were warier about the new accommodation.

“I think the floating barges are good as we are utilising the space on the water, especially with the lack of accommodation in Galway as it is, with lots of students still having nowhere to live,” explained Third Year Arts student Aisling McCauley.

“But on the other hand, would it be safe for students who have gone out to house parties or clubs and consumed alcohol to be living so close to water?

“Or maybe they can put the right institutions in place to provide a safe and normal living environment.”

Third Year Jane Finn who is studying Human Rights also saw pros and cons with the project.

“It is definitely an innovative approach to the housing crisis, but it remains to be seen if it will tick all the boxes,” she said.

“With the right safety precautions put it in place, it could be a helpful addition to student housing across the city – but mixing alcohol and water never has happy endings in Ireland, and not to label all students, but caution has to be taken to see if this project is even plausible.”

Some students thought the accommodation barges were a definite no. Maggie Cumiskey is a First Year Arts student who really struggled to find accommodation this year.

“I was lucky to get into Corrib Village, I was on the waiting list and only found out I had a place the week before I started,” she said.

However, she wouldn’t be keen on living on a barge.

“I personally wouldn’t want to live there as I am scared of water,” she laughed.

NUI Galway Students’ Union Welfare Officer Megan Reilly said the idea was “unconventional” but could be beneficial if safety procedures were a priority.

“It’s a very unconventional solution to a long-term problem here in Galway,” she said.

“Obviously more student purpose built accommodation is on the way, but until then a lot of people are stuck. We do welcome the barges, though only as long as student safety is a top priority, and that all measures are put in place to ensure that.”

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