‘King of promises’: Tánaiste slated over student housing prices

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary criticised the Government’s progress report

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney insisted the Government was meeting its targets on developing student accommodation on Thursday as he faced trenchant criticism in the Dáil that students could not afford the rates for purpose-built housing.

The Government is considering encouraging more digs-type accommodation and rent-a-room schemes as short-term measures for students while purpose-built housing is under construction, the Tánaiste has said.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary told Mr Coveney that current student housing is “being provided at exorbitantly profitable rates, making profits on the backs of students while you stand by and talk about it”. He accused the Tánaiste of being the “king” of targets and promises.

“In housing you promised there wouldn’t be any emergency accommodation this time last year and it’s still happening,” he told him. “You promise everything but in September and October students and their families will be faced with a bill every month of €1,400 or €1,500.”

The Mayo TD raised the issue following the publication of the Government’s progress report on its national student accommodation strategy.

Targets

The Tánaiste said the target is 7,000 bed spaces by the end of next year and a total of 21,000 purpose-built bed spaces by 2024 “and we remain on track if not to exceed that number”.

He said that 3,000 purpose-built bed spaces have been completed. Over 7,000 further bed spaces are under construction.

Over 7,000 have planning permission granted and over 1,200 are at a planning permission application stage.

“We are moving from dramatic under provision of student accommodation to catching up rapidly.”

Mr Calleary said the Government was once again patting itself on the back while ignorant of reality on the ground that students were being charged between €1,100 and €1,500 and many were being forced to give up their college places or drop out because of the cost.

He said the accommodation the Tánaiste talked about was being built by private developers who were targeting international students as “cash cows”, able to afford the price.

He called on the Government to include student accommodation in rent pressure zones and ensure such housing was deemed as “under licence” to cut the cost. He said that in the northside of Dublin students are being hit with 30 per cent increases in rental costs.

Rent pressure zones

In Santry students face a 50 per cent increase following a 30 per cent rise last year. The Tánaiste said some of the student accommodation does come under rent pressure zones “but a lot of the purpose-built accommodation doesn’t”.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Minister for State Damian English were looking at ways to ensure that students were not being “ripped off”.

“At the same time we need to make sure the supply increases because it is a dramatic increase in supply that is going to deal with this issue in the medium-term and that is what we are focusing on and it is working.”

Mr Coveney acknowledged that while the Government was meeting its targets “the result isn’t being felt by many students yet. That’s true.”

That was why they were “talking about encouraging more digs-type accommodation, promoting rent a room schemes and so on.

“Because the practicality of this is that it takes time to build significant numbers of student accommodation and that is underway.”