Specialised student accommodation providers here to stay

Ireland has never had a tradition of specialised accommodation for students. 65 per cent of students will live at home this year

 

Large-scale specialised student accommodation has taken off both in Dublin and around the country, with more units expected over the next three years. The largest expansions in specialised accommodation for students came from UK-based property developers Ziggurat and the Student Housing Company, which between them will build almost 5,000 beds for students by 2019.

Unlike the UK and many other EU countries, Ireland has never had a tradition of specialised accommodation for students. 65 per cent of students will live at home this year and the balance tends to rely on private rental sector and campus accommodation.

“Ireland is quite a small country geographically, so a lot of students live at home,” says housing expert and DIT lecturer Dr Lorcan Sirr. “There hasn’t been that significant weight of demand [for specialised student housing]. If you look at the catchment areas of universities and ITs, a lot of students come from within driving or public transport distances so they’ll tend to live at home. From the property developer’s perspective, they’ve never had the guaranteed annual numbers of students that would make it worth their while developing for. That has changed now.”

Ziggurat, which currently runs the UCD Montrose accommodation facility, recently announced plans to develop 4,000 beds across Dublin, Cork and Galway in a €400 million Irish expansion. The Student Housing Company and Bennett Construction recently launched the 471-bed Binary Hub, the first of three student residences it will launch in Dublin over the next two years. Although there are some Irish providers of specialised accommodation, they exist mostly on a much smaller scale.

“The UK providers coming over know what they’re doing and they know how to do it,” says Dr Sirr. “They know how many apartments they need, and they know what to charge to make it worth their while.”

The new breed of specialised student housing tends to be a more expensive option for students. For 2016/17 Ziggurat are only offering 12 month leases to students in the Montrose accommodation, having formerly offered nine month leases catering to the academic year. The cheapest room available, a twin room, costs €150 per week including utilities. This leaves students with a minimum €7,650 annual bill for their college accommodation.

Binary Hub’s costs are more expensive. Although they offer 38 week leases catering to the academic year, the cheapest room available - a standard en suite - including bills will cost €206 per week, adding up to €7,828 for the academic year. It is now fully booked and could have been filled “several times over” according to the Student Housing Company.

Sirr says that collaboration between third level institutions and private operatives - as was recommended in the 2015 HEA report on student accommodation - may provide an answer to the future of sustainable specialised student accommodation.

Dublin Institute of Technology currently partner with a number of student housing providers to provide accommodation now by block booking bed spaces. They have co-operated with Chubb Properties to reserve beds on the JBs Student Campus site, which is close to DIT Grangegorman. A bed in a twin room for nine months costs €89 per week, and €3,560 for the year - less than half the cost of a twin room in the Ziggurat complex. “We try to get affordable accommodation as much as we can,” says DIT’s director of Campus Life Brian Gormley.

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