Grangegorman residents fear ‘overconcentration’ of students

Housing for 8,000 students near new DIT campus will ‘inevitably change’ Dublin area

 Site at Grangegorman Lower and Brunswick Street, Dublin, where  student accommodation is to be built. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Site at Grangegorman Lower and Brunswick Street, Dublin, where student accommodation is to be built. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Apartment blocks for almost 8,000 students are planned or under way in the north inner city, with more than half of those within 500 metres of the new Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) campus at Grangegorman, figures show.

If all of the 23 proposed apartment complexes are built, one third of all the student bedspaces the Higher Education Authority says are required to meet the national shortfall of 25,000 would be in Dublin’s north inner city.

However, local residents fear the area will become overwhelmed by students, who would account for 60 per cent of the population in the Grangegorman area if the schemes secure planning permission, and have asked that Dublin City Council approve no more student housing developments.

More than 20,000 full- and part-time students are due to attend the new consolidated DIT campus on the site of the former St Brendan’s Hospital by 2020.

The Grangegorman Development Agency planned to build apartments for 2,000 students on the 50-acre campus but this was increased to 2,500 last year as part of the Government’s efforts to deal with the housing crisis.

However in the last two years, private purpose-built student accommodation providers have been targeting the area surrounding the college, with developments of more than 4,000 bedspaces planned within half a kilometre of the campus and just under 8,000 in the wider north inner city area, according to city council planning files.

Residential area

A spokeswoman for local residents’ association Blend, described the plans as a “ribbon strip of development through Dublin 1 and 7”.

“In principal, the DIT identified a need for 2,000 student spaces which would be provided on campus so why would there be a need for more than 7,000 student beds in the area?”

An influx of students inevitably changes any residential area, she said. “I’m not here to bash students but inevitably they change the character of an area. They don’t require large food shops, so you get more convenience shops and take-aways. They usually go home to a family doctor or to an on-campus doctor so there isn’t a sufficient population to sustain a GP in the area.”

In a statement the council said all planning applications for student accommodation are assessed under the provisions of the development plan which supports “high quality, professionally managed and purpose-built” student accommodation.

Developers were “requested to submit evidence to demonstrate that there is not an over concentration of student accommodation within an area,” it said.

“I don’t see how anyone looking at this area could see it as anything other than an overconcentration,” says Grangegorman resident Marianne Lee.

“The density of development is what people are concerned about. It has been pointed out to Dublin City Council that there is no overall plan, but it seems that they just treat each application on a case-by-case basis.”

Ms Lee said she was aware of the counter-argument that there is a housing crisis and a need for new residential construction.

“We are not antidevelopment and we are aware of the amount of derelict sites in the area, but we would like to see mixed development – these blocks are not required to have any social housing. There is no housing being built for elderly people, nothing for renters, just one sole type of accommodation being built and that is not way to develop a sustainable community.”

Concern

Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe agrees that while there is a need for student housing, it shouldn’t all be in one area. “My concern would be that the only significant housing being built is student housing. We need a mix of housing for a mix of people from different backgrounds.”

Constructing student accommodation can appeal to developers due to a perception it is cheaper to build than standard apartments, Mr Cuffe said.

“Developers have to provide less floor space per inhabitant and can make more money per square metre, or at least they believe they can – developers in this city always become a bunch of sheep following each other, and as a result there are no other apartment types currently under construction in the area.”

An analysis of census data by the Rathdown Road and District Residents’ Association found there were about 2,600 people living within 500 metres of the new campus. If the applications currently before the council were granted the student population in the area would exceed 4,000.

These figures did not include the large number of houses which were already split into flats, the association said. Potential buyers of family homes would in the future be competing with landlords.

“The provision of purpose-built and managed student accommodation may well increase the pressure on the existing housing stock rather than alleviate it, because there is likely to be a ‘clustering’ effect.”

It is a view shared by local Independent councillor Cieran Perry. “The argument is that we need purpose-built student accommodation to free up housing in the private rented sector but it doesn’t work like that.

“When there’s a high percentage of student accommodation a place becomes a student area, and more students want to live there. This type of ‘studentification’ has been a disaster in other places, like the Holyland in Belfast where students have destroyed the place.”

Rental market

However, Independent councillor Nial Ring said purpose-built student blocks could take the pressure off the local rental market, and could benefit the area if they were well managed.

“I ensured through a motion passed by fellow councillors that the city development would include a provision that student accommodation would be professionally managed and that this would be a condition in any planning permission,” he said.

“Hopefully, DIT will have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that the on-campus facilities will be suitably run.”

Paul Horan, head of campus planning with DIT, said any private developments proceeding are doing so without any commitment from DIT to reserve spaces.

“DIT has not given any direct endorsement or commitment to any project but in a situation of severe shortage, where we know our students are commuting from further and further afield an improved supply of accommodation would be welcome.”

Purpose-built schemes would help guard against “unregulated conversion of domestic homes to student rentals” he said. “These are essentially unmanaged and have a negative impact on immediate neighbours.”

Student blocks would also free up flats for the “non-student” renter, he said.

“While we may all wish the market was building more family homes at the moment, the construction of PBSAs [purpose-built student accommodation] will contribute directly to improving the housing crisis in Dublin . . . The only live construction projects in Dublin 7 are associated with PBSAs.”