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Housing Minister says Government has no short-term solution to lack of student accommodation

O’Brien said this was “an immediate and very serious issue”, but he explained there was no short-term solution.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien
Image: Sasko Lazarov

THE GOVERNMENT HAS no short-term solution to the problem of students being forced to fork out hundreds of euro a week for hotel rooms, because of a lack of student accommodation, admitted the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien.

It emerged last Tuesday that students in Dublin and Limerick were spending up to €400 a week for hotel rooms. Its understood the problem may be more widespread across the country.

Speaking in Limerick today, O’Brien said this was “an immediate and very serious issue”, but he explained there was no short-term solution.

“It’s not going to be solved overnight, but there is an immediate focus on the student accommodation issue right now,” O’Brien said.

“I actually discussed it with Simon Harris earlier this week, and we actually have a bilateral meeting next week on this very issue. It’s a serious issue for students right now, that some of them are paying 300/400 a week to stay in hotels.”

O’Brien said he and Simon Harris, Minister for Higher Education, would assess ways of “how we can expand student accommodation all across the country”.

“There has been engagement through higher education and with the university sector as well. In certain parts of the country we’ve seen a big increase in purpose built student accommodation, but not necessarily all students can actually get into it.”

The Minister said there was a “particular problem in Limerick”.

Asked if he had any ideas as to a solution for students in the short-term, O’Brien pointed out that Covid-19 pandemic had hamstrung the supply of housing.

He responded: “Last year we had a construction shutdown and we were to deliver 33,000 homes, and that feds into the private residential sector, home ownership, social housing, and student accommodation. We are 13,000 short because of Covid.”

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“This year we have seen a pick up in (construction) in the last couple of months , but we will probably, at best, do about 22,000 housing completions, that’s 11,000 short, so supply is affecting it.”

He added that he recently led the introduction “to protect students to make sure students are covered by the Residential Tenancies Board, to restrict the amount of deposits any landlord can ask of a student”.

The minister described a recent advertisement offering bunk beds in a kitchen in a house near University of Limerick, as “totally and utterly unacceptable”.

“I’ve seen some of these advertisements and I would say to people where accommodation is substandard complaints can be routed through the local authority or through the RTB.” “I’ve seen some of what are called studio-type apartments, which are literally beds in kitchens, that’s wrong and thankfully it’s not wholesale, but where standards are not met, the RTB will deal with it.”

O’Brien said the only long—term solution to a lack of student accommodation is “by delivering more homes”.

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David Raleigh

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