A bed, a bathroom and an empty bank account

Gabija Gataveckaite

Image credit: Roise McGagh

This was the second protest by the DCU Students’ Union over price increases of 27 per cent for student accommodation.

“No way, we will pay,” students chant, holding signs and sleeping bags.

The RTE news crew hold their microphones out to frustrated, tired and angry students.

“It’s just not feasible for me to live there for my final year. I can’t ask my parents to pay that money, it’s far too much. It’s extortionate rates for what we have, which is a bed and a bathroom,” Sarah O’Dwyer tells the nation on Six One news that evening.

A bed, a bathroom and €9,000 later- an empty bank account. O’Dwyer isn’t the only student to be left in the dark for next year, this is an issue which effects every student who has to move out of home to complete their third-level education in Dublin.

University of Limerick on campus accommodation averages €4,200-€5,800. University Halls located just outside of University College Cork cost €5,550 for the academic year. Dublin prices are as follows: Broadstone Hall is €9,440 for a shared twin room, Gateway Residences costs €7,980 for a ‘standard room’. Dublin, with its population of over 1.2 million people, has seen a high influx of people into the city over the past few decades. A percentage of this influx are students- and business men and women looking to make a profit off unsuspecting students.

“Commuting from Clare would cost me €20 a day, which is €100 a week. The Shanowen Square increases work out at about €235 a week which is over double what I’d be paying if I actually commuted from Clare,” said Rebecca Breene, a Media and Politics student at DCU.

“I’m currently in a house near DCU and I’m paying €540 a month, which is really difficult to afford. I work part time and I’m also on the SUSI grant and I still struggle. Forking out almost €1,000 a month for a place like Shanowen is literally impossible for me and my family,” she adds.

This is the catch: private student accommodation complex apartments were a luxury even before mass migration to the capital and a sudden surge in prices. Purpose built, with full-time security and groundkeepers, wooden floors and high windows, usually come with a higher price tag. Many students relied on digs, or rented a room in a house, or shared an apartment. These were always noticeably cheaper, with prices averaging at €150 a week for a room around DCU. However, the housing crisis now sees single professionals struggling to afford a room or a studio apartment in Dublin- let alone students, with little to no income, apart from that of a grant, or the Bank of Mum and Dad.

“I think at this stage you have to know someone,” said Adam Healy, the Humanities Rep in DCUSU. “You can argue that students want to live with students and they don’t want to live in digs. I can tell you now that I have 20 friends that I can name off the back of my hand that would love to live in digs if it meant that they had permanent accommodation for that year.

Nothing is safe unless you have money to burn at this stage. It’s a joke,” he added.

Sadly, having money to burn isn’t an option for most students. An article published by The College View showed students complaining that working while in college made their studies suffer. Kerry Mahony is a second year Communications student here at DCU, who also works to support herself through her studies.

“I work four days a week alongside college and while I’m glad I have my job, it is tiring. Most evenings I feel too tired to go to society events and things like that,” she said.

“I probably miss out on more things than a student who doesn’t work, but it’s my only choice,” she added.

Priced out of Dublin? Potential students are now in a position where their choice of course may be in a city that they simply cannot afford. Mahony thinks this has already happened.

“I nearly didn’t choose my course because I was worried about costs,” she remembers. “My friends in NUIG and UL have such affordable rent compared to me. This is why DCU needs to care about this issue- its turning students away from choosing what otherwise is a great college.”

Protests, marches, TDs promising change- and yet, relentless silence from the private accommodation companies under fire. Local and national media outlets have requested comments, Student Unions have written open letters, students have slept outside their gates in protest. And still- no response.

“They don’t care about housing students, they merely see us as assets,” Breene says.

Interview with DCUSU Humanities Rep, Adam Healy

Gabija Gataveckaite

Image Credit: Roise McGagh