Students consider ‘digs’ option as rental prices rise

Increase in cost of rental has led to new interest in living in a family’s guest room

Sorcha Pollak talks to student welfare officers to find out what advice they have for students searching for accommodation amid a housing shortage and soaring rents.

 

The national increase in rental prices is leading to a resurgence of the “digs” culture as students rush to find affordable housing before term begins.

Luke Maguire (20), a final-year student at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, has commuted from Drogheda every day for the past two years. He was recently elected students union entertainment officer and is hoping to find an affordable room near the college.

“I have been saving but even at that I’m not going to be able to afford it,” he said. “There are places in the city centre that cost €200 but I’d have to get a bus ticket for the month which would be an extra €100. Anywhere on the southside is going to be very expensive – you’re averaging at €500 a month.”

He has considered living in digs – which typically involves occupying the guest room of a family home – but says most owners ask students to go home for the weekend.

Expensive

“Digs are still expensive and they’re only Monday to Friday,” he said. “I have yet to find somewhere that will keep a student for a weekend. You’re paying extra money to go home for two days.”

He says his daily commute from Drogheda has affected his grades. “I have to be up at 5.45am for a 9am lecture. I’m doing coursework on the train, [and] whenever I get a chance in between lectures. I haven’t got a productive space to work in.

“During the second half of last year I’d bring a sleeping bag into college in case a friend would be nice enough to let me sleep on the floor,” he added.

Alison Kearney and Alicia Traynor from Wicklow were lucky enough to find a place to live in Maynooth yesterday afternoon after 24 stressful hours of searching.

“We had checked out estate agents and a lot of them didn’t want to hear from students – they were only looking for professionals,” said Ms Kearney.

Arriving in Maynooth on Monday afternoon, the young women were shocked to discover the “madness” of the housing search.

“There’s quite a lack of housing and we were very lucky to get such a good deal,” said Ms Kearney who eventually found a four-person apartment for €1,000.

“It’s very basic living conditions, not very spacious – there are no heaters in the house but we didn’t have any other option,” said Barry Mullen from Roscommon who will move in with the Wicklow girls in September. “One fella said trying to get accommodation in Maynooth is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. That wasn’t too reassuring.”

Ailbhe Quinn, a Masters student from Monaghan, opted for a digs arrangement once she realised most rooms in south Dublin cost at least €450.

Location

“People think they can charge high prices for location rather than quality,” said the UCD arts management student.

She discovered homestay.com, an Irish start-up company that offers students the option of renting a room in a private home seven days a week.

“It’s such a good system,” said Ms Quinn, who through reviews was able to pick a family with an interest in music and culture. “I’ll still have the freedom to come in and out.”

“It’s a trial run, I’m not committing to a long-term lease but I probably will like it,” she added.

Síona Cahill, vice-president for welfare and equality at Maynooth, says digs are a “fantastic option”, particularly for first-year students who haven’t lived away from home before. “It means you have that extra bit of support in the evening when you come home.”

“The big thing with digs is you sit down with the person you’re living with at the beginning and set out the rules and responsibilities before the relationship begins.”