A Galway-based letting agency is planning to use high-end barges to accommodate hundreds of students who are unable to find somewhere to live.
The housing crisis has prompted Winters Property Management to engage with harbour authorities and the owners of large-scale, multi-storey ships in a bid to provide a rapid solution to the rental squeeze.
Enda McGuane of Winters Property Management said he has been in discussions with the owners of two barges that could be towed into Galway harbour in just three weeks' time.
His company is working with NUI Galway on the proposal. The two barges could accommodate up to 400 students at the harbour, which is just 15 minutes walk from NUI Galway, Mr McGuane said.
Bibby Maritime in Stockholm in Sweden can provide the barges.
"Two barges from Bibby Maritime are currently available and perfectly suitable for student requirements," he said.
These barges have been used in the past for corporate accommodation around the world and feature en-suite bedrooms, restaurants, recreation rooms, in addition to providing reception and laundry facilities.
Mr McGuane said the barges would likely have to be docked in a private part of the port to avoid ship movements.
Whether or not the move will require planning permission has yet to be resolved, he added.
Winters Property is the largest provider of student accommodation in the country, Mr McGuane said. The company works closely with NUI Galway.
"Costs, permits and compliance would have to be fully explored in order for this to happen in time for the upcoming college semester," he said.
Asked about concerns for the safety of students around water, Mr McGuane said the barges would be configured to ensure there was a minimum chance of accidents. He came up with the idea in a bid to meet immediate demand quickly.
"We are all aware of the shortage of residential accommodation, the reality is that it will take a number of years before supply catches up with demand," he said.
The move comes as student unions warn that some young people who have just got college offers may have to give up on their dreams as many will be unable to get accommodation.
Rents have risen by 12pc in the past year, and the number of units for rent is at a record low. The average monthly rent nationwide is €1,159. This is up €122 a month since last year.
Homeowners have been called on to avail of a scheme that lets them rent out a spare room to a student for up to €14,000 a year tax free.
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