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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Taoiseach takes his first Leaders' Questions in the Dail today after more than a year of sittings being held in the Convention Centre.
Leaders' Questions

Taoiseach says he doesn't want to see students staying in hotels due to lack of accommodation

The Taoiseach said a “close eye” will be kept on colleges and what they charge in for rent.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he doesn’t want students who can’t find accommodation staying in hotels.

In the first Dáil sitting after the summer recess and the first time TDs have been allowed to return to the chamber in over a year, the Taoiseach also said the government would be keeping a “close eye” on universities and colleges to ensure they “do not charge exorbitant rent”. 

He said the government has given colleges and universities the capacity to borrow so as to increase the supply of housing on campus. 

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the Taoiseach that the Katherine Zappone controversy has distracted the government from key housing concerns.

A housing protest is due to take place outside Leinster House this evening. 

Third-level students in Limerick are staying in hotels because they cannot find suitable accommodation in the city, RTÉ reported yesterday.

Boyd Barrett told the Taoiseach today that the situation with student accommodation is “dire”.

“The disease of unaffordable rents” is now infecting our student population and pricing them out of the market, he said.

He said there is now a record level of homelessness among students, where students are sleeping on friend’s couches and having to pay to stay in hotels, says Boyd Barrett.

The Taoiseach said progress has been made in since Fianna Fáil entered government, stating that homelessness is down 23% from the peak of October 2019.

The Dun Laoghaire TD also raised the specific case of UCD, telling the Taoiseach that the cost of renting on the UCD campus has risen, with students being asked to pay €14,000 per year in rent. 

He accused the university of charging rents for profit. Boyd Barrett also told the Dáil that Dublin is “littered” with high-end student accommodation blocks that charge thousands for rent.

He told the Taoiseach that the there is an “unprecedented problem”, stating that Dublin is overwhelmed with students who can’t find affordable accommodation.

Many students are being forced to travel between two to four hours back and forth to college, as they cannot afford the rent.

The Taoiseach said the Housing for All plan will ramp up housing, stating that more housing is needed across all headings.

Review of salary threshold

Separately, the Taoiseach told Independent TD Denis Naughten that he has asked Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to review the salary threshold for social housing, accepting Naughten’s point that people getting a modest pay rise should not be removed from housing lists as a result. 

There was a further discussion on housing today, specifically the government’s shared equity scheme. 

The Social Democrats Cian O’Callaghan and Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty accused the housing minister of misleading the Dáil by claiming the Central Bank had already signed off on the shared equity scheme when it now emerges it has not.

They both called on the housing minister to correct the Dail record. The Ceann Comhairle said it would be preferable if they didn’t accuse other members of misleading the House, but Doherty stood over his comment.

Doherty asked the Taoiseach if he is going to turn a blind eye to what O’Brien said, with  Martin responding by saying he has no issue in speaking to the minister about it.

Speaking today, the housing minister says the shared equity scheme is not a debt scheme, but an equity-based scheme. He told the chamber that his most recent comments on the scheme is that the operational details are currently being finalised work is ongoing, but is at an advanced stage.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin O’Broin said the minister previously stated that the scheme has been approved by the Central Bank, when it has not, and assumes that the minister “misspoke”.

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