College applicants ‘cannot afford student accommodation’

USI says purpose-built housing is out of reach for vast majority of new third-level entrants

Members of UCD Students' Union have recorded their experiences during house viewings on social media platform Snapchat. Video: UCD Students' Union

 

Student unions have warned that the vast majority of college applicants cannot afford newly-built student accommodation.

The warning comes as higher education authorities estimate there will be a shortage of more than 20,000 beds for students in the coming academic year.

A number of international players with specialist experience have come to Ireland to build and operate student housing in recent years.

However, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has warned that some of these developments are charging rent in the region of €1,000 a month.

For example, a new 400-bed development by the UK-based firm Global Student Accommodation at Mill Street in Dublin’s south inner city is charging students between €245 and €345 a week for its rooms.

USI president Michael Kerrigan said students were in danger of being priced out of college due to high registration fees and rising living costs.

“The cost of accommodation needs to be addressed, so CAO offers can be a positive moment in any student’s life, without the fear of being homeless during college or living in cars,” he said.

Decisive steps

Ministers have accepted there is a shortage of beds for students, but insist that decisive steps are being taken to improve the delivery of affordable student accommodation units over the coming years.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the collapse of the housing market had impacted on student accommodation, with the output of homes falling by more than 90 per cent between 2006 and 2013.

A new national strategy aims to increase the number of student accommodation places by 21,000 within the next seven years, through the increased supply of purpose-built housing.

There is also a renewed focus on promoting student digs.

However, the strategy’s lack of a focus on providing “affordable” student accommodation has sparked concerns among student groups.

On-campus

Mr Bruton said it was hoped that much of the new purpose-built accommodation would be priced at about €120 a week upwards, especially in cases where accommodation was on-campus.

Figures compiled by the USI indicate that most students are paying between €250 and €500 a month for their accommodation.

The proportion spending more – between €500 and €750 a month – has risen to 25 per cent.

Mr Kerrigan said that, while the new strategy was welcome, the USI anticipated that shortages will “get worse before they get better”.

“There is more accommodation, but it’s not keeping pace with the growth in student numbers. We’re forecasting that it will get worse between now and 2019, after which it will get a bit better,” he said.

The union is encouraging students in need of accommodation to visit its digs website, which aims to link homeowners with students.

Homeowners are allowed to earn up to €14,000 a year tax-free when they rent out spare rooms to students.