Students ‘sleeping in cars’ because of shortage of rental accommodation

Housing committee is told students will not end up pursuing their first choice if it is in Dublin, Cork or Galway

“On the night of the census in 2016, there were 429 homeless students in Ireland, making up over 8%  of the total homeless numbers.”  Photograph: Getty Images

“On the night of the census in 2016, there were 429 homeless students in Ireland, making up over 8% of the total homeless numbers.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

Students are sleeping in cars and couch-surfing because of the housing crisis and the shortage of rental accommodation, the Oireachtas Housing Committee has been told.

Michelle Byrne, a Union of Students of Ireland (USI) official, told the committee that the housing system was “buckling under the pressure in a very real way for students”, who could not afford rising rents.

“It is becoming a significant barrier to accessing education,” she said. “On the night of the census in 2016, there were 429 homeless students in Ireland, making up over 8 per cent of the total homeless numbers.”

While the volume of purpose-built student accommodation available had increased, Ms Byrne said much of it was targeted at international students. These new units were exempt from rent caps, which she said placed a “permanent unaffordability” into Irish education.

“Rent pressure zones are the very least we should be considering. Students are sleeping in cars, staying in libraries and couch surfing. They are commuting hours to get to a lecture, and this is affecting their ability to get a decent education.

“The system is worsening educational inequality because students from many families that are considering going to college will not end up pursuing their first choice if it is in Dublin, Cork and Galway.”

New Bill

The committee also considered a new Bill introduced by Sinn Féin which seeks to protect the rights of students who are renting.

The Residential Tenancies (student rents, rights and protections) Bill 2018 seeks to ensure that students living in student-specific accommodation under license agreements come under the rent pressure zone legislation, which caps rent increases at 4 per cent in some areas, and have access to a dispute resolution process under the Residential Tenancies Board.

In reply to a recent parliamentary question, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said his department was currently examining how best to regulate student accommodation pricing arrangements. The department was scoping out, with the assistance of the Attorney General, “the legal feasibility” of changing the law for purpose-built student housing.