Student accommodation guide: how to find a place to live
Can you dig it? With housing tighter and costlier than ever, students need to start looking and booking right now
Dannii Curtis of UCD Students’ Union: ‘Digs are becoming popular again’
The student housing crisis: it’s always a news mainstay at this time of year. But these days it’s becoming harder for anyone to find a home, as students are pitted against workers in a desperate hunt for a dwindling number of accommodations. At the same time, rents are on the rise.
The cost of renting on campus has also risen. University College Dublin, Trinity College and Dublin City University have all increased the cost of living on campus. There have also been small increases at NUI Galway, the University of Limerick and University College Cork.
Renters will not be surprised that Dublin is the most difficult spot to secure accommodation, followed by Galway and Cork. Students looking for a place in Limerick or Waterford will face somewhat less difficulty.
The short-term solution to this crisis, it appears, is a return to digs, where students stay in a family home for five or seven days a week. Last month, the Union of Students in Ireland launched homes.usi.ie, encouraging landlords and homeowners to list spare rooms, apartments and digs to students across Ireland.
“In cities with a number of third-level institutions, such as Dublin, Cork and Galway, there’s a lot of students and also a growing number of professionals,” says USI president Kevin Donoghue. “The accommodation needs of students are different: they really just need a room.”
Of course, “digs” might not be exactly what every student has in mind when they imagine moving out of home.
“Practicalities do win out at the end of the day,” says Donoghue. “It may once have been affordable to rent an apartment, but it’s not anymore; even if it was, it’s hard to find a suitable place. Digs are a practical option: they’re affordable and high-quality, and they’re usually closer to college, which also cuts down on commuting costs.”
Ronan Lyons is an economist with property website Daft.ie, which is widely used by those looking for a place to buy or rent. “We can expect to see more of the same problems this year due to very tight supply,” he says. “But students are flexible so they are packing more of themselves into each house. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was common for students to share a room, and we’ll probably see a return to this now.
“A lot more students are simply choosing a college course closer to home, while some are commuting from as far as Wexford or Cavan to college in Dublin.”
Finding an affordable place to live in Dublin is a big challenge for anyone, student or not. The available units are less likely to go to students. Students’ unions and college accommodation officers are nudging students towards the digs option, where they expect more availability. In recent years, Dublin colleges have urged homeowners to consider renting a room to students; many have done so and more are expected to join in this year.
Students who aren’t living on-campus and don’t want to go for digs will likely need to commute a little further. Rents tend to be a bit cheaper, and there’s less demand, in north and west Co Dublin.
On-campus, rents in DCU for one year (36 weeks) range from €4,172 at Larkfield to € 4,965 for a superior room at College Park. Rates have increased at DCU by 3 per cent since 2014.
Students in a standard room at Rubrics in Trinity College will pay €4,385 per academic year, while a single bedroom with shared bathroom and kitchen in Trinity Halls is €4,722. Trinity’s rents are up by 3.5 per cent following a 4 per cent rise last year.
UCD has the most expensive on-campus accommodation of all. A room in Belgrove or Merville on the Belfield campus, including utilities and insurance, costs €6,358 for the academic year. A room in Roebuck Hall, Glenomena or the Proby residences will set a student back €7,778. Rents at UCD rose by 13 per cent in 2014 and are up by 17 to 40 per cent this year.
And there’s a big change on the way: from 2016, UCD plans to only accommodate first years and international students on-campus.
Best considered as a subset of Dublin, with the same factors squeezing supply. And, as Maynooth is squarely in the Dublin commuter belt, there’s no shortage of people looking for houses in and around Kildare. As a result, prices are not far off what students have to pay in the capital.
There’s a significant amount of digs available in the Maynooth hinterland, including Celbridge and Leixlip. There are 900 beds on campus – most of which are held for first years – but they’re gone already. The campus accommodation office advises homehunters to focus on private sector accommodation.
Along with Dublin- and Galway-bound students, those attending college in Cork need to move fast to secure decent accommodation.
There’s no on-campus accommodation at CIT, but there are privately owned student apartments in the vicinity, which are unfortunately almost full. CIT has a shared housing list, regularly updated, but these too are almost full. Digs may be the best bet for many students, and there are plenty available
At UCC, on-campus accommodation prices rose slightly this year; at the Castlewhite complex, students will pay €4,368 for the year, and €4,719 at University Hall.
NUIG and GMIT students have always been a major player in Galway’s housing market. In recent years, however, more jobs in the city have increased demand just as a lack of building has restricted supply. These factors conspire to squeeze students.
On campus at NUI Galway, annual rents vary from €4,210 for a single standard room at Corrib Village to €4,890 for a single en-suite, and from €3,145 for a twin ensuite to € 4,440 for a single en-suite with a double bed at the Student Village (Menlo Park Apartments).
Students at the University of Limerick or the Limerick Institute of Technology are in luck: despite price increases of around 10 per cent, there is still a fair amount of housing available, most less than 20 minutes walk from the university.
UL’s Campus Life Services has a detailed off-campus accommodation list with self-catering and lodgings in the area, which it will email it on request.
On campus at the University of Limerick, a room in an eight-bedroom house is €3,640 for the year, while a room in a six-bedroom en-suite apartment is € 4,680 (including utilities and internet). On-campus accommodation is already fully booked for incoming first-years, but the accommodation office will have a waiting list for first-round CAO offers day, August 17th. Students can apply online from 9am; available places allocated first-come, first-served.
There’s no accommodation crisis for the lucky students at the Waterford Institute of Technology. Prices haven’t risen since 2009 (although they are expected to next year). On campus, a single en-suite room is €85 a week, or €3,315 for a 39-week year. Off-campus, prices range from €73 to €90 per week, with plenty of private rented accommodation available. MY ACCOMMODATION HUNT : DANNII CURTIS, UCD S TUDENTS’ U NION “I’m from Dublin, but my family moved to Kilkenny before I started transition year, so I knew I’d have to move out of home for college. Most of my top choices on the CAO form were UCD courses; I studied for a BA International in politics and international relations.
“I was allocated a place on-campus but I didn’t know how to accept it or who I’d be living with. As it turned out, it was two guys. One of them was in second year and the other was a fourth-year.
“That was the first year they had mixed residences. I was a bit nervous about living with people I didn’t know, but as it turned out they were great craic and we became good friends.
“I was lucky enough to get an on-campus room in second and third year as well, but I wasn’t able to pick who I wanted to live with. Last year, I got lucky. A friend told me about a job as a boarding school assistant at Wesley College in south Co Dublin, and I got the job, which pays me in bed and board and covers most of my expenses. It’s also meant I didn’t have to join the mad scramble in September, when a lot of accommodation is already gone, and departing third- and fourth-years have passed on their rooms to second-year friends.
“This summer, I’ve been living with a girl I work with. From September, I’ll go back to Wesley. There’s not many jobs like this going.
“Digs are becoming popular again. I’ve heard quite a variety of stories, mostly positive. Landlords will have different expectations and different rules: some are happy to let the tenant come and go as they please and to self-cater, but I’ve heard one or two stories about curfews being imposed.
“I would definitely encourage students to ask the landlord for the phone number of a previous tenant so they can get a good idea of what to expect. And a good landlord won’t mind this.”
HOW TO . . . MOVE OUT
I moved out of the family home after college, during a postgraduate degree, at age 24. It was possibly the biggest shock of my life. Some students will have already figured out the basics of staying alive, but let’s face it: most of us were more than happy, when living at home, to have our folks look after the cooking and cleaning. No more.
Living with people: Thought dealing with your parents was hard work? Wait until you’re living with strangers, many of whom may be even less capable of managing their lives than you are. The only thing worse than a slob who never cleans up after themselves is the passive-aggressive who labels all their items with yellow Post-its. Or is the flatmate who inflicts their public displays of affection and noisy sex on you worse? Living with people is all about communication and compromise, so try and talk to each other. And remember: your flatmates are as new to this as you are, so be patient.
The washing machine: Even if you’re lucky enough to have parents who will let you bring your dirty underwear home to wash – or be washed – chances are you will still need to figure out how to use a washing machine at some point. It goes without saying that you’re supposed to separate the whites and the colours. But do you need to separate the colours? Most people don’t, although a bright red jumper might discolour lighter clothes. A 30- or 40-degree wash will do the trick for most clothes. Check the label before you put it in the wash: some clothes are hand-wash or dry clean only, and will be wrecked by a washing machine. For any silks or wools, use a detergent such as Woolite. Tumble dryers will shrink clothes, particularly natural fabrics such as cotton and wool, so use a clothes horse if possible (most leases don’t allow clothes to be dried on radiators, as this cause damp and mould). Oh, and use fabric softener, just because it smells nice.
Study: A potentially bigger challenge is that, without your parents nagging you to study, you’ll be inclined to slack off. Your lecturers and tutors don’t care if you fail; this isn’t secondary school, so your course work is your problem. Ensure you have a study plan. Get into the habit at an early stage of setting deadlines and sticking to them.
Mind yourself: Moving out of home and leaving your parents, siblings and hometown behind is more of a wrench than you might expect. Try not to leave campus too much, so you quickly acclimatise to your new surroundings.
Cooking: It’s an unfair cliche that most young people don’t know how to boil an egg. Fortunately for me, my parents insisted I learn some basics of cooking while I lived at home, and I was a keen learner anyway. The problem was I started off too ambitious, going straight for big dinner parties before I’d even figured out to feed myself on a Tuesday.
Most students’ unions now provide some basic information on cooking and budgeting. It may be cheaper to eat junk food from the supermarket, but you’ll pay for this through less energy and being unable to concentrate on your study.
Fresh fruit and veg, eggs and fish and only small amounts of meat, and some wholegrains should form the basis of your diet, along with some dairy, particularly milk and yoghurt. Stir-fries are a healthy failsafe: try some fresh veg with chicken or egg, chilli, ginger, garlic and a bit of soy sauce, served with rice or noodles. Or an omelette, baked potato and a home-made salad.
Cleaning: If you get used to being neat and tidy now, you might stay that way. The basics: keep the kitchen counters, floors and sink clean. Be sure to clean out the fridge at least once a month, to avoid it getting sticky, smelly and gross. Try to keep your room clean. Make sure your home is well-aired: it should have enough ventilation that you don’t need to open the windows in the freezing winter, but even a well-ventilated house or apartment should have some fresh air running through it every now and again.
But don’t go overboard on cleaning. A clean-freak can be marginally worse than a slob. If you’re living with people, it’s a good idea for everyone to take a turn, once a week, to do a deeper clean of the bathroom, kitchen and living areas. Buy less stuff and don’t have more than you need, so that clutter doesn’t invade the house.
HOW TO . . . LIVE AT HOME
Like most Dublin students at a Dublin college, I lived at home during my time at UCD. Around a third of students are doing the same, but these numbers are rising as student accommodation becomes both scarcer and pricier.
Whether you’re living at home or away, college isn’t quite the loud herald of independence it’s made out to be, because the vast majority of students remain, to at least some extent, financially dependent on their parents.
That said, it is an important step. Unlike in school, you should be able to stay out all night if you want, but you’ll still need to let your parents know – a quick text at 10 or 11pm will do the trick.
The downside of independence is that you have to muck in and contributing to household chores. (See our survival guide on moving out for some basics around cooking, cleaning and washing).
Resentments can build up on both sides unless parents and their adult children have a proper conversation and set some ground rules. Is it okay to bring a partner home, and in what circumstances? It’s one thing to bring home a boyfriend or girlfriend who you’ve been seeing for a while, but quite another to bring home someone you just met in Copper’s. Maybe your parents are laid-back; you’ll have a good idea yourself.
How should the chores be shared? Many stay-at-home students still have it easy, with most cooking and cleaning done for them, but you can’t really be independent if your parents are doing all cooking and laundry. Making all your own meals in the family kitchen may be impractical, but a decent gesture might involve preparing dinner for the family one day a week, or vacuuming once or twice a week. Imagine you were living away from home: think of how you would treat your flatmates, and act accordingly.
Parents, for their part, should understand that it’s perfectly normal and healthy for their adult children to want more independence, and that trying to control their life – even if they’re paying the bills – will only create difficulties.