College students commuting up to four hours because of accommodation

UCD accused in Dáil of charging up to €15,000 a year in ‘rent for profit’

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said UCD had increased the cost of college accommodation by 20 to 30 per cent and students were being asked to pay up to €15,000 a year. Photograph: Eric Luke

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said UCD had increased the cost of college accommodation by 20 to 30 per cent and students were being asked to pay up to €15,000 a year. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Unaffordable accommodation has resulted in record levels of homelessness among students who are sleeping on couches or forced to commute up to four hours a day, the Dáil has been told.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the situation was “absolutely dire” for students who are being forced to stay in hotels where they have to pay up to €400 a week.

Mr Boyd Barrett said the controversy surrounding the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a United Nations envoy was distracting the Government from the housing crisis and the “disease of unaffordable rents” was now “infecting our student population” and on-campus accommodation.

A housing protest was set to take place outside the Dáil on Wednesday evening and Mr Boyd Barrett said students’ unions across the country were “overwhelmed with thousands of students who cannot find affordable accommodation”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he did not want students who could not find accommodation to have to stay in hotels.

Mr Martin also said the Government would be keeping a “close eye” on third-level institutes to ensure they “do not charge exorbitant rent”.

‘Rent for profit’

But Mr Boyd Barrett accused UCD of charging rent for profit. He said the university had increased the cost of college accommodation by 20 to 30 per cent and students were being asked to pay up to €15,000 a year.

He added that Dublin is littered with new developments of “highly expensive” private investor student accommodation which is charging at least €1,000 a month.

The Dún Laoghaire TD added that 18,000 new hotel rooms in 24 hotels will be built by 2023.

“All that building capacity is going into building stuff for profit, but not going into building the affordable student accommodation.”

The Taoiseach said he did not accept “the juxtaposition of the tourism industry expanding and developing accommodation and students”.

Tourism was needed to create employment.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil had entered government last year and since then homelessness had fallen by 23 per cent from a peak in October 2019.

He added that the Housing for All strategy had “fundamentally changed the State’s approach to housing”.

The Taoiseach added that the institutes of technology would now be able to borrow to provide extra student accommodation. “For many years they did not have that capacity, which the universities had.”

He said: “We will be keeping a close eye to ensure the third-level colleges do not charge exorbitant rates to students.”