NUIG governing body to ask for reversal on proposed student rent hike

Students nationwide carry out protests against proposed on-campus rental increases

Students at Trinity College held a protest on Thursday opposing proposed rent increases. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Students at Trinity College held a protest on Thursday opposing proposed rent increases. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

The governing body of the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) has said it will contact the college’s accommodation group requesting that the decision to increase on-campus rent be reversed, NUIG’s student union has said.

It is understood Údarás na hOllscoile, NUIG’s governing authority, has agreed to contact Atalia Student Residences requesting they revoke their decision to increase campus accommodation rents by four per cent.

NUIG student union president, Clare Austick, said members of the authority had shown real support for students and had committed to contacting the student housing body.

Ms Austick said she hoped NUIG could “lead in breaking down the barriers” blocking affordable education for all. “Education is a right, it shouldn’t just be available to those who earn enough to pay for it,” she said. “We’re hopeful our institution can do something about this.”

NUIG did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

Protests have been held at universities across Ireland in recent days in response to proposed rental hikes in student accommodation, with some students holding campus sleep-outs.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has encouraged students to continue picketing and camping out until all institutions agree to reverse the rental increases.

USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick criticised the outgoing Government for contracting private developers to build high-cost, luxury student accommodation blocks as a solution to the housing crisis among students.

“We all agree there needs to be additional accommodation but allowing private developers to build luxury apartments is not reflective of what’s needed. We don’t want cinemas and bowling alleys, we can’t afford that. We want standard, clean, accessible and affordable accommodation.”

UCD students kicked off the series of protests earlier this month following the decision to increase the university’s on-campus accommodation rents by 12 per cent over the next three years. They subsequently erected tents on campus, a move replicated in UCC where students have been sleeping out on the quad since last Tuesday.

UCC students are facing a proposed rent increase of three per cent, a move UCC student union vice president Ciara Kealy described as “pure extortion”.

“This level of treatment towards students as cash cows is wholly unacceptable” said Ms Kealy. “This country is in crisis with a dysfunctional housing market, the highest third-level fees in Europe and now students are being asked to pay even more rent from September.”

On Thursday, Trinity College students joined the nationwide protest with 25 students gathering outside the university’s College Green entrance chanting “can’t pay, won’t pay” and “raise the roof, not the rent”.

Unsustainable increase

Trinity student union president Laura Beston said students were frustrated by campus rents “constantly rising”.

“Since 2010, rooms down in Goldsmiths on the east end of our campus, they have risen the same amount as one year’s fees – €3,000,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem sustainable and the Susi [Student Universal Support Ireland] grant isn’t increasing to the same amount, incomes aren’t increasing.”

Ms Beston said a rent increase would affect about 1,800 students who live either on campus or in Trinity Hall, Rathmines.

A Trinity College spokesperson said there were no current plans to increase on-campus rents, but that “at some stage an increase of some sort is likely to be considered”.

“Accommodation is essentially paid for by borrowing, not the State, and that borrowing at some point has to be repaid. Of course, if an increase is approved at some stage it would have to fall in line with regulations set by the Residential Tenancies Board.”

The spokesperson said it was “too early to say” when this rise would be discussed and that no proposals had been made to the Trinity finance committee.

Craig McHugh, USI vice-president for the Dublin region, called on the incoming government to introduce a rent freeze on student accommodation and prioritise investment in higher education.

“This is absolutely disgraceful but there is one route cause – it’s greed and it’s neglect and that’s from the Irish Government. ”