University College Dublin (UCD) will increase rents for its on-campus student accommodation by 12 per cent over the next three years, the maximum increase permitted under rent cap laws.
The increase would see the cost of student accommodation on the Belfield campus rise to between €8,000 and €9,900 per year over the next three years.
Under legislation aimed at tackling rising rents, increases are capped at 4 per cent per year in rent pressure zones, such as Dublin and other cities.
In a statement, UCD said the rent increases were required to pay for the maintenance of current student accommodation, as well as help fund plans to build additional campus housing.
The south Dublin university has plans to build an extra 3,000 student beds, over 900 of which are to be ready for the start of the next college year in September 2020.
The most expensive student accommodation rooms would increase from €8,815 a year to nearly €10,000 under the plans. While accommodation in the other student housing blocks on the Belfield campus would increase from €7,114 to €8,000 for the academic year.
The decision to increase on-campus rent by 4 per cent for the next three years was strongly criticised by the UCD students’ union.
Joanna Siewierska, head of the UCD students' union, said it was "shocking to see Ireland's largest, public university use student accommodation to make a profit, and do nothing to help students manage the crippling rents in Dublin."
Ms Siewierska said the decision showed the “utter disconnect from the student experience and profit-driven decision making mindset” of the university’s management.
The students’ union was already seeing fewer students from outside of Dublin choosing to study in UCD, due to the high price of rents in the capital, she said.
“UCD is using rents on campus to raise funds to build further extortionately priced accommodation. It is a clear sign that UCD is only interested in recruiting students who can afford to pay incredibly high rents to attend it, or become crippled by debt,” she said.
A spokeswoman for UCD said the university would review the level of rent increases after the three years, and would “reduce the increases or even freeze them, if financially possible”.
“The university is currently constructing new residences and a student village. This development is costing in the region of €500m and is funded largely through bank loans,” she said.
“These new residences will command a higher rent averaging €257 per week for 38 weeks,” she said. This would equate to €9,766 for the academic year.
Rent from student accommodation went in part to fund support services, such as duty managers for the residences, the university spokeswoman said.
Previously Ireland’s seven universities unsuccessfully lobbied to have college-owned student accommodation exempt from legislation enacted last year to extend rent caps to purpose-built student housing.