The Irish Times view on student accommodation crisis

High rents and supply shortage create new barrier for entry to higher education

Who would be a third-level student right now? Final-year second-level pupils had their lives disrupted by changes to the Leaving Cert exams for two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and those who landed college places now have to find an affordable place to live. The wider crisis in housing is being felt acutely in student accommodation as young people search in a broken market where supply is dwindling and demand is soaring.

When the president of one of the largest third-level institutions, Dublin City University, adds his voice to the chorus of criticism of the Government's housing strategy, it is clear there is a major problem. Daire Keogh warned about a new barrier for entry into higher education being created based around family income given the high cost of renting.

The problem is not unique to student accommodation – high rents have become an issue for most tenants – and landlords have been exiting the market for years. But supply has dried up in more areas for students and Covid-19 has been to blame. Home learning last year forced landlords to lease out apartments and houses typically rented by students to others, while “digs” accommodation disappeared because rent-a-room landlords not unreasonably did not wish to share homes during the pandemic.

DCU has highlighted that even with lower-cost finance from the European Investment Bank and the Housing Finance Agency, escalating construction costs – perhaps the biggest obstacle to finding short- to medium-term solutions to the housing crisis – is making it uneconomic for universities to build student accommodation.


Third-level education might be affordable compared with other countries but living on or close to campuses to avail of it is not. Many students cannot afford rents north of €600 or €700 a month. The Government prides itself on a highly educated workforce in its international sales pitch but solutions to help students find bedrooms at affordable prices are needed if a widening class gap at third level is to be avoided.