Student accommodation problems reflect the crisis in housing and lack of rental opportunities

Economic recovery risks being blunted if basic needs are not being met

 

Student accommodation is one acute aspect of a broader national housing crisis. The overall rental market is failing to meet demand, with property supply limited, rents rising and little new construction under way to relieve the housing shortage. The result is a growing imbalance between supply and demand, which has pushed up rental prices, and has for many made renting a less affordable option.

The sharp contraction in the rental market graphically illustrates the scale of the problem. Six years ago 23,000 properties were available to rent. Today there are 4,600 on the market – an 80 per cent drop in six years. The latest rent report by Daft, a property website, confirms a bleak picture, with rental costs 8.6 per cent higher than a year ago – far outpacing the rise in average incomes.

For those students in third-level education who are now looking for rental accommodation, the national property shortage presents a daunting challenge. Both the limited availability of property and the high cost of renting, make it harder for students – most of whom rely on parents for financial support, or depend on State grants or bank borrowings – to compete on price. In 2014, some 11,016 houses were completed countrywide, with a further small increase in that number expected this year.

But, given Ireland’s growing population, simply keeping pace with housing demand will mean – it is generally agreed – building 25,000 dwellings a year over the next decade. A failure to do so on that scale – 90,000 homes were built at the peak of the property boom – will not just mean a continuing crisis in the housing market, affecting those that hope to buy or rent their homes. It will also have a negative impact on the strong economic recovery under way. A country without adequate housing accommodation at affordable prices – whether to rent or buy – will not alone fail to meet the needs of its citizens, but also the more demanding requirements of foreign direct investors who may instead choose to locate their operations elsewhere.

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