DCU calls for regulation of private student housing rental sector

University president criticises ‘escalating and uncontrolled pricing’ of student housing

Prof Brian MacCraith president of DCU: DCU is ‘acutely aware of the financial pressures that are placed on students and their families’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Prof Brian MacCraith president of DCU: DCU is ‘acutely aware of the financial pressures that are placed on students and their families’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The president of DCU is calling on policy makers to take action to help control the escalating rental cost of student housing.

Professor Brian MacCraith made the call in the wake of rental increases of up to 27 per cent recently imposed by private providers on purpose-build student accommodation used by DCU students.

Prof MacCraith said if regulations to deal with the “escalating and uncontrolled” pricing of the student rental sector are not introduced accommodation costs will invariably continue to increase.

The DCU president said the burden being placed on students and their families by such increases would lead to the creation of a “family-income-based barrier” for entry into third-level education.

“This is completely contrary to current government policies in this regard,” he said.

Under the current arrangement, Prof MacCraith said that in some cases, students are being “exploited” and he described rental increases of up to 27 per cent as “simply unacceptable”.

Prof MacCraith said policy makers and providers of rental accommodation must work together with universities to find a “longer term more sustainable solution” to the provision of affordable accommodation for all students.

“The primary driver of the escalating costs for student accommodation is that demand is now far outstripping supply. If regulation and supply are not addressed student accommodation costs will invariably continue to increase,” he said.

DCU had made a “significant investment” in on-campus accommodation and is continuing to explore the viability of constructing additional, off-campus properties at affordable costs for students.

He said the cost of on-campus accommodation to students “is very favourable, and of a superior standard”, when compared to private rental accommodation. “As a university that promotes access to education for all, we are acutely aware of the financial pressures that are placed on students and their families. Consequently, we work very hard every year to ensure that the accommodation we provide across our three campuses is as inexpensive as we can possibly make it.”

However, the DCU president said escalating construction costs are “a matter of real concern” and have the potential to place a limit on future university investment.

“For example, the costs of construction for the University of a five bedroom student apartment is now in excess of €550,000, excluding land purchase costs. The issue has the potential to limit the scale of future University investments and will inevitably result in increased rental costs for Irish and international students.”

While the university currently has a total student bed capacity of 1,400 across all three campuses (DCU Glasnevin, DCU St. Patrick’s and DCU All Hallow Campus), demand is very high with four applications for every bed-space available in 2017/18. The university is currently in the early stages of planning for an additional 850 beds in the DCU Glasnevin and All Hallows campuses.

Prof MacCraith said additional investment in student accommodation is urgently required to address future demographic growth and accommodate the growing international students sector “if the key third level objectives of the Government’s International Education Strategy are to be realised.”

On Thursday, students held a protest over sharp rental increases in the privately-owned Shanowen Square and Shanowen Halls accommodation complex in the Glasnevin area. DCU Students’ Union described the increases as “completely unwarranted” and warned they would result in “undue stress and pressure” on students.