Students Seek Shelter

The annual hunt for student accommodation began in Dublin immediately after CAO offers were released in August of this year. However with 80,000 students currently in higher education in the capital, and less than 3,000 student bed spaces available, major problems have arisen for students not within commuting distance of their chosen college.

To make matters worse, there has been a 13% increase in the number of incoming students with a 40% decrease in the availability of rental accommodation in Dublin. According to The Irish Times Online, rents have also increased by 15%.

Living within commuting distance of DCU myself, I am not personally affected by the current student accommodation crisis. However it is apparent from contacts I have made with others who are currently relying on rented accommodation that there are a number of problems that require the Governments attention, with cost and availability being at the top of the list.

Scrolling through any online discussion board, you will come across students who have found it impossible to secure accommodation this academic term, leaving them with no choice but to put their third level education on hold.

For many students, the sourcing of digs has been a life saver. While suited to some however, I personally wouldn’t fancy feeling like a guest in another family’s home. What if you wanted to stay out late at the NuBar? Or at a two am study session in the DCU library? Wouldn’t you feel restricted in your movements?

In my view, students should have the choice to live independently. However, due to the inaction of our Government in relation to this issue, such an option is not there.

Despite being faced with black and white proof that this problem should not be ignored, out of the 72 pages which make up the Government Construction 2020 Strategy, published in May of this year, the word ‘student’ appears only once. This is truly outrageous.

To add insult to injury, the incoming water charges on October 1st, implemented by this Government, will result in further weekly rent increases, with Landlords too in need of extra income. Home owners are therefore tending to offer leases to those who can afford such increases i.e young professionals, leaving students out in the cold.

Isn’t this highly unfair? Aren’t students targeted enough by increases in the student contribution fee, without having to cope with the additional financial and logistical challenges that securing adequate student accommodation brings?

Abandoned by Government, students are however generating ideas to ensure that suitable accommodation can be secured for those in third level education.

One example is ‘Generation Accommodation’, a UCD led initiative, which ensures that students who cannot afford the cost of accommodation are placed in contact with elderly people with available space in their homes. In return, these elderly home owners receive companionship and extra income that in many instances is much needed. Such innovative measures are just what the doctor ordered, and something our Government can learn from.

With the student accomodation crisis now having reached breaking point, Government and public authorities must be more proactive in their approach to tackle this issue – for example, by examining the possibility of introducing rent controls, or regenerating ghost apartment blocks that were built in the Celtic Tiger era.

After all, in order for there to be equality of access in regards to higher education, there needs to be equality of access to student accommodation.

Ciara Moran

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