Rent caps to be introduced for PBSA

By Cáit Caden

Craig McHugh, current DCUSU VP for Education and Placement at the #ShanowenShakedown Part 3 protest outside government buildings. Holding his arm in Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education. Image Credit: Cait Caden

Rent Caps on Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) will be introduced into legislation after the main opposition parties initiated private members’ motions on the issue in the Dáil.

Students living in PBSA are facing the prospect of more than a 15 per cent rent increase without the protection of rent caps which the government announced it will be introducing.

“If you signed a petition, talked to your parents, protested, or slept out this is your win. This is the power that students can have when we stand together,” posted DCU SU on their Facebook page.

This result comes after several student protests on rent across Ireland. This includes the NUI Galway protest which brought a case against the rent increase in Cúirt na Coiribe [the Residential Tenancies Board will examine it today] and the #ShanowenShakedown movement by DCU which protested the 27 per cent rent hikes proposed by the Shanowen student accommodation complex.

“The fact of the matter is that this is far from over, this is just the first step in a long battle to get affordable accommodation for students. Rent is still inexplicably high and there is still a major shortage of beds, making accommodation and therefore education is not affordable for many,” said Vito Moloney Burke, DCUSU President.

“I do not believe concerns amongst students will ease for the coming year. It is currently unclear if the rent caps are going to be in place for 2018/19 and there is still a major shortage of affordable beds, which just highlights the need to keep this fight going,” continued Burke as he discussed whether the SU will have less students coming to them with accommodation related concerns.

As students are primarily renters, they are not sheltered by the landlord and tenant legislation and therefore the rent caps will not apply to students renting in other accommodation that is not PBSA.

“The rent pressure zones applies to tenancies but doesn’t apply to most student accommodation because that operates under licence,” said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Presently rent can be increased by 4 per cent per annum in rent pressure zones.

“USI are very cautious in welcoming the Taoiseach’s comments yesterday. Making comments to the media in order to pacify us before the summer break won’t keep us quiet about the issue,” said Síona Cahill, President of the Union of Students Ireland.

Cahill said that the USI will not stop until the Taoiseach delivers a rent cap because “students are tenants and have rights.”

Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil were the parties behind the Residential Tenancies Bill 2018 that aimed to protect students from the rent increases in PBSA and instigated the proposed legislation, which Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education will be working on over the summer.

“As is the case with any Opposition legislation, particularly when you are a minority government, you have to respond when they are raised by the Opposition,” added Mr Varadkar as he acknowledged the initiative by Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.

The Taoiseach furthermore acknowledged that the student renting crisis is a “real issue” but worried that legislation sometimes goes “too far.”

“You might actually cause developers to stop building the student accommodation,” said Mr Varadkar when discussing the negative effects of the legislation.

By Cáit Caden

Image Credit: Cáit Caden