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Students should be 'vigilant' in the search for accommodation, student unions warn

Thousands of students are now on the hunt for accommodation.

Image: GoogleMaps

STUDENTS IN IRELAND are being advised to be “vigilant” as the search for accommodation kicks off following today’s CAO results. 

Thousands of students around the country today found out where they’ll be heading to college next month. 

Yet for many students in Ireland, prohibitive costs of purpose-built accommodation has resulted in a frantic search for a place to live during the academic year. 

Last week, the Irish Independent reported that rents in purpose-built student accommodation had increased and that rents had also increased by as much as 11.5% year-on-year in some university-owned and on-campus accommodation – leaving many students looking for rental accommodation elsewhere. 

As the rental crises deepens, Student Unions are encouraging students to be aware of the risks attached to renting and encourage people to contact the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and housing charity Threshold if issues arise with properties. 

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is advising students to inspect rental properties before handing over money to prospective landlords. 

Students should remain cautious when renting accommodation for the academic year, The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) has also warned.

The IPOA has said that prospective renters should always ask prospective landlords for confirmation of ownership for the property being rented, as well as advising students to inspect properties before handing over money. 

‘Rising Rents’

Last month, University Times reported that less than seven per cent of purpose-built student accommodation developed in Dublin since 2016 is available for less than €840 per month.

6,691 student beds have been created in Ireland since 2016….Over 80% of purpose-built accommodation in Dublin. 

There has been widespread criticism over the proliferation of student accommodation built in recent years, the effects this type of development has on local areas, how sustainable it is and the prices charged to students.

Earlier this week, Minister for Education Joe McHugh suggested that families unable to afford to send their children to university should consider more affordable options in regional colleges. 

Joanna Siewierska, President of UCD Students Union, told TheJournal.ie: “We see students struggling with this every year. We hear of students turning down places or looking to go somewhere else to college or university because they’re worried about the accommodation situation, especially in Dublin. 

“Our on-campus accommodation is the most expensive in the country, so that is, of course, a concern.”

“What we try to say to students is…there are more affordable options in the area.”

Throughout the academic year, Siewierska and the Student’s Union advise students to contact charity Threshold for advice if accommodation issues arise. 

Trinity. Trinity College Dublin Source: Shutterstock/faithie

Significant rent increases for student accommodation ahead of rent caps coming into effect earlier this month has led to increased pressure for students heading to university, says Craig McHugh, Vice President for the Dublin Region.

“It’s not something we pre-empted and it’s not something we’d welcome,” McHugh told TheJournal.ie. “We’ve seen significantly high rent hikes. In Trinity, a rent hike of 10% or so.”

This is “seizing an opportunity”, McHugh says, yet adds that “institutes aren’t adequately funded. They need to find other ways of funding themselves and this is…the measure they’re going for.”

‘Day-To-Day Living’

Purpose-built student accommodation was previously exempt from rent increase limits in designated Rent Pressure Zones. 

In April, the government announced that rent caps for purpose-built student accommodation were being introduced.

Siewierska of UCD welcomes these legislative changes. “Now students will have that extra layer of legal protection in purpose-built student accommodation.”

However, the short-term result is that universities and developers have increased rents for the forthcoming academic year. 

A spokesperson for Trinity Students Union, which offers a free accommodation service, said that demand for student accommodation remains “huge”. 

Yesterday, Minister of State at the Department of Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor was criticised for suggesting that students use their SUSI grant to help pay for accommodation. 

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said O’Connor’s comment “shows just how arrogant and out of touch Fine Gael are with the costs facing third level students. 

“The SUSI grant will not come close to meeting accommodation costs, in the context of 11.5pc increases in many university-owned and on-campus housing schemes. 

“It would leave students nothing for day-to-day living, which is what a maintenance grant is supposed to be for.”

With on-campus accommodation filling up, the USI is advising students to remain calm in their search for their accommodation. 

“We tell students not to panic. There are beds out there. But obviously this is a pothole-filler. 

It’s not really a solution, realistically. We need an affordable accommodation strategy put together. 

“Realistically students are going to take out loans to pay for their college accommodation.”

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