Costs, Constraints, Crisis – Students renting accommodation remain at the mercy of the critically undersupplied and financially inflated Irish rental market and it’s having a negative impact on their studies, wellbeing, and future. So far this year, we have seen no improvements in the accommodation crisis, as evidenced by this quarter’s Daft.ie rental report.
T.U Dublin Students Union along with USI and other student’s unions around the country continue to lobby the government for an urgent solution to the accommodation crisis. As a result, a 4% cap on rent increases for student accommodation has been introduced as of May 2019. We note this achievement, however, it does little to improve the current situation. The average cost of rent in Dublin is still €1,391 per month, up 6.7% on last year. The average cost of a single room in privately funded, purpose-built student accommodation is €1000 per month -this is out of reach for the average student. The maximum SUSI grant allowance (Student Universal Support Ireland) of €657 per month does not come close to covering the average room in Dublin, let alone a room, food, and course materials.
Thousands remain on university campus accommodation waiting lists, and there were just 2,700 homes available to rent nationwide in the second quarter of 2019 according to Daft’s Rental Report. T.U Dublin has yet to implement its plans for on-campus student accommodation. This year, we are focusing on ‘digs’ and the Rent-a-Room scheme (which allows people to rent out a room in their home and earn up to €14,000 tax free) as an interim solution to alleviate the crisis. These arrangements are, however, unsuitable for many, especially international students. Though more affordable at an average of €100 – €125 per week, many are on a five-days-per-week basis, forcing students to travel home at weekends which interferes with their ability to work part-time, access campus facilities like the library, or take part in extra curricular university activities.
A worrying trend is the rise in reports of homeless students who have ended up ‘couch surfing’ or, in extreme cases, sleeping in their cars. This is a troubling development for Students Unions and University services to grapple with, though we will do our utmost to support these students in whatever way we can. Some T.U Dublin students have been travelling for up to three hours a day to attend lectures from counties as far as Tipperary and Sligo which is having a profoundly negative impact on their wellbeing. Much like ‘digs’ and Rent-a Room, the extra travelling limits their involvement in university life.
CAO applicants who cannot find or afford accommodation may have to put university off for a year or more, or study a course they are less passionate about closer to home if they’re lucky enough to live near another third level institution.
In the upcoming budget in October, Student Unions’ and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are asking the Government to do the following – establish public housing authorities to build AFFORDABLE student accommodation and provide capital grants to Institutions to build on-campus student accommodation. The only stress one should associate with university is a healthy amount of exam nerves – not where to find or how to afford a space to live. Ireland has the highest level of school leavers progressing to third level education in the E.U. We are a nation that values education and our students deserve better. If the current crisis continues with an insufficient response from the Government, students will be taking a stronger approach to making our needs heard – so watch this space!