Ministers have instructed their officials to “engage” with student housing operators after two of the big players in the sector said they will offer students only 51-week tenancies for the 2024/25 academic year.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris acted after student landlords Aparto and Yugo – which offer more than 4,500 bed spaces in Dublin and Cork between them – decided they will no longer offer 41-week leases in line with the college year.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Higher and Further Education said that while there may be some demand for 51-week leases, “it is not desirable for the vast majority” of students.
“The Ministers have asked their officials to establish the circumstances and consider what action may follow,” she said.
Student management plans submitted as part of the original planning process for a number of Aparto’s Dublin accommodations stipulated the letting period would be 40 weeks. The planning permissions granted for Dorset Point and Binary Hub were subject to conditions which included that the facilities be operated in line with those student management plans.
In the case of Dorset Point, the planning permission stated: “The student accommodation complex shall be operated and managed in accordance with the measures indicated in the Student Management Plan submitted to the planning authority with the planning application. Any changes in the operation and management of the complex shall be the subject of a new planning application.”
Aparto is charging up to €288 a week in Dorset Point for the next academic year and €300 a week at Binary Hub, meaning most students or their families will be paying up to €3,000 they do not need and will not be using.
Property group Hines, which owns Aparto, told The Irish Times it operates fully “within the remit of its statutory obligation”.
Hines acquired Binary Hub and Dorset Point – planning permissions for which were granted in 2014 and 2016 – from ThreeSixty Developments, a portfolio company of funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, in 2016. Aparto operates five locations in Dublin, including the former Montrose Hotel near University College Dublin.
A spokesman for Hines said: “Aparto operates within the remit of its statutory obligations. All current uses of its facilities throughout the calendar year are permitted under existing legislation and are legally compliant. Its practices are in line with that of similar-sized operators within the purpose-built student accommodation sector in the Dublin area.”
Hines previously said the change was driven by “market trends” and an increase in inquiries about lengthier tenancies. Other student accommodation providers, including Yugo, have moved to a 51-week model across its various properties in Dublin and Cork.
Mairéad Farrell, Sinn Féin spokeswoman on higher education, said the Government had clearly taken its eye off the ball “in relation to how these investment funds or vulture funds have been able to take over the market”.
She said a 51-week lease “is not realistic for students in terms of cost and once again the Minister and the department are totally failing to understand the impact their policies are actually having on students being able to access third-level education”.
Dublin City Council declined to respond to The Irish Times’s queries last week.