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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 18 November, 2018
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Students will struggle to find somewhere to live - but here is a starting point

We’ve been speaking to accommodation experts to gauge the supply and demand and the best moves this morning for CAO applicants.

It can seem like there's a considerable queue ahead of you for every student accommodation option this year.
It can seem like there's a considerable queue ahead of you for every student accommodation option this year.
Image: MikeDotta/Shutterstock

WITH EVER-INCREASING prices and rocketing demand, it can often be frustrating looking for student accommodation in Ireland.

In recent months, students have taken to the streets in Dublin and Galway to protest the cost of accommodation, while the government’s promised solutions won’t be ready for anyone searching this month or the next.

But while it can seem daunting to plunge into a search for accommodation, especially in Dublin, there is support out there.

Colleges and third-level institutions often provide whatever help they can to students. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Gary Mulcahy, the Student Residential Services & Community Relations Officer in University College Cork, said that incoming students need to be “proactive”. Places often become available at the last minute, he said, as students’ circumstances change or they receive a CAO offer they didn’t expect.

“It’s a matter of being proactive and looking at every possible option,” he said. “Some people are doing the wrong things and that’s because of a lack of knowledge.”

Support from colleges

The vast majority of colleges have an accommodation office, which are useful sources of information for anyone with questions about accommodation provided by the colleges themselves and how they can apply for a room. Some will also offer extensive advice to students searching for private rented accommodation.

While searching property websites like Daft.ie can be useful, many colleges also work closely with students’ unions to offer specially curated advice and databases to students looking for a home from September onwards.

For instance, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) runs an accommodation advisory service run by full-time staff, while NUI Galway’s Accommodation and Welfare Office offers a similar system of support and advice.

University College Dublin Students’ Union Accommodation Officer, Ailbhe O’Halloran, told TheJournal.ie that the situation in Dublin remains difficult. She said:

The situation hasn’t improved a huge amount. There’s a bit more purpose-built student accommodation around, but that’s really only for the lucky few who can afford to pay €1,400 a month.

University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Maynooth University and several other colleges also offer an accommodation search engine that allows users to filter results by price, location and property type.

Even if there isn’t a dedicated accommodation advisory service in your college, most will at least offer online advice regarding the best locations to look for houses and which property websites might prove useful.

First-year students

If you haven’t applied for on-campus student accommodation or halls, there may still be time. Often cheaper than the rooms offered by student housing companies and usually close to campus, these beds are often popular with first-year students. Some applications may have already closed ahead of CAO offers being released, but check your college website to see if you can still apply or put yourself on a waiting list.

Many colleges and students’ unions also run Facebook groups dedicated to accommodation, where people will post about properties or rooms that are available. In recent years, some colleges have also struck deals with student housing companies to reserve beds for their students at cheaper prices.

A lot of attention has been focused in recent months on the rise of these purpose-built student accommodation complexes. In Dublin, several have sprung up rapidly in popular student spots, such as Grangegorman, Gardiner St or the Docklands, and often within walking distance of the city’s main colleges.

Rocketing costs of dedicated housing

Be warned, however – the rents can be incredibly expensive. In March, the President of Dublin City University (DCU) Brian MacCraith called for tighter regulation to control the rocketing costs of student housing, echoing the complaints of students across the country.

When contacted by TheJournal.ie, the university offered this advice to students looking for accommodation: “It is important to survey all the options, to seek advice from the suite of resources available at your relevant higher education institution and do your homework before you commence your search. Planning with friends can help and it is also worth investigating accommodation possibilities such as taking a room in a family home.”

Any students struggling with accommodation were encouraged to contact DCU Students’ Union or the college’s Student Support and Development Office.

In one of the city’s newest student accommodation complexes close to Grangegorman, which is owned by Uninest, the cheapest room costs €250 per week. While there are cheaper options to be found – Buckley Hall offers twin rooms at €546 per person – many of these accommodation complexes are already fully booked or close to selling out, though you can often apply to be placed on a waiting list.

‘Horror stories’

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President, Síona Cahill, warned students who are looking for accommodation, especially in Dublin, that “many of the horror stories are true and that’s part of the problem.”

However, she said that these situations happen because “there hadn’t been a tenancy agreement or contract” or students hadn’t done their research.

Students have also been warned to be wary of scams. In some cases, huge deposits are requested for properties advertised using fake photos or a landlord claims to be unavailable to meet for a viewing but persuades students to send a deposit anyway.

O’Halloran said there had been a “massive drop” this year in the number of scams reported to the students’ union.

I don’t know if it’s because we have more resources out there to help students spot scams before they even have to come to us, but definitely it’s been a massive drop.

O’Halloran also warned students to make sure they view properties before agreeing to take a room or a house. “It’s very common to pressure students into just accepting something before seeing it, just after two or three emails or a phone call with the landlord. One thing we would really recommend is try your hardest not to give in to that pressure.”

As in previous years, USI is asking people to consider opening their homes to students, with the promise that they could earn up to €14,000 tax-free. Cahill asked students to strongly consider giving digs a try. “It’s not the digs of 20 years ago,” she said. “Ultimately it’s an adult arrangement. It’s not really that different to living in another housemate scenario.”

This was echoed by DCUSU Welfare Officer Aisling Fagan, who called digs a “cheaper alternative” for students. DCU’s main campus is close to a residential area, she said, so a lot of rooms are very close to college.

The digs system

However, O’Halloran called the digs system a “disaster” due to the lack of regulation. “Some people are being charged outlandish prices to stay in a house where they’re not really welcome five days a week and not be allowed to use the kitchen or have to be home by 8pm every evening or not home before 5pm every evening and be gone on a Friday morning and not be back until Monday morning.”

There are some small positive developments to look forward to. In July, the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, promised to extend rent caps to purpose-built student accommodation, while there are new accommodation projects in the pipeline. Trinity College’s Oisín House complex will have 250 beds and should be ready by early 2019, while DIT plans to have accommodation built at Grangegorman by 2020.

Ultimately, Cahill’s advice was not to panic: “The worst thing you can do is accept something that is way too expensive and below standard.”

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About the author:

Dominic McGrath

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