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Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018
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Rental crisis: 'The room itself is about 4m x 8m, not much bigger than a prison cell'

If we keep going in this same direction, young people will be forced to study at universities abroad, writes Billy Vaughan.

Billy Vaughan

THE CURRENT RENTAL market in Dublin, and in particular south Dublin, has reached a state of absolute mania.

Rental costs have passed Celtic Tiger peak

According to the latest quarterly report by daft.ie, there was a 12.1% increase in Dublin rents between July and September of this year. That is the largest quarterly increase on record, and rent levels are now standing at 10% above the Celtic Tiger peak.

In this cutthroat market, students must make do as best they can, fighting over the last of the housing stock that hasn’t already been taken by those higher up the food chain.

Unfortunately, even other major Irish cities are no longer the relatively affordable alternatives that they might have been a year or two ago. Cork and Galway have also seen massive increases in student rents recently.

After working in Dublin for the summer, I had to move out of my accommodation for September, as getting to UCD every day wasn’t feasible. Fortunately, that meant I was able to beat the rush in early September, when the CAO offers came out.

Room with a queue

In previous years, that would be a big advantage, but I quickly realised that, even at this point in the year, there was nothing. A quick look online showed me how lucky I was to have even found something for that summer. Checking online for rooms became a draining daily task.

If an ad came up that looked promising, I scrolled down and waited for the inevitable *PROFESSIONALS ONLY*, *FEMALES ONLY*, or *15 MONTH LEASE*. If none of those requirements were there, then it was nearly always a scam. Or it had already been taken. With every promising ad, there was a depressing list of barriers to get through.

Source: Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com

Eventually, an unexpected vacancy in one of my friends’ houses meant I was able to move into a room a few weeks into this term. A couple of weeks couchsurfing in the meantime was a small price to pay. I count myself incredibly lucky to have found something.

A friend of mine has been living in the same dorm room as her sister since September. She sleeps beside the single bed in a sleeping bag on the floor. Every day she checks the listings, but nothing even approaching affordable ever comes up.

The room itself is about 4m x 8m, not much bigger than the average prison cell. She has nearly resigned herself to the fact that that arrangement will probably continue through to May of next year.

The problem is that many houses in the city that would usually go to students are now being let out to young professionals, who are willing to put up with the higher prices and lower standards. All groups are being shunted down the pecking order, but the students are already on the bottom rung. Where do we go from here?

Europe does it better

From January to May of this year, I was on exchange in Antwerp, and couldn’t believe how much healthier the renting market for students was there. The university wasted no time putting us in touch with one of the landlords in its citywide network.

We ended up getting a place that was half the price of an equivalent place in Dublin, about 2 minutes walking distance away from the university. Bills were included, and one of the first things the landlord asked us was what date we wanted to terminate our lease on.

He also told us that an inspector from the university comes to the house every few months to make sure that the accommodation they are pointing students towards is of good quality. An integrated system like this is what Irish universities should be striving for.

It soon won’t be possible to study in Dublin

My younger brother is now starting secondary school, and my parents are already adamant that he won’t be studying in Dublin. The combination of third level funding cuts and no real efforts to deal with the rental crisis is going to create a city that no longer welcomes students.

If we keep going in this same direction, we won’t be exporting our young people as soon as they’ve graduated. They’ll be leaving so that they can graduate.

Billy Vaughan is in the final year of a Law with Politics degree at UCD. He is originally from Donegal.image

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