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Student housing crisis: 'We have students who are sleeping in cars, on their friends' floors'

UCD’s Welfare Officer said that students are coming to her office with sleeping bags.

SOME STUDENTS IN UCD are sleeping rough, in their cars and on their friends’ floors as they can’t afford accommodation, the university’s students’ union has warned. 

Yesterday, students at UCD took part in a tent protest after it emerged rents at campus accommodation are to increase by 12% in the next three years. 

For this academic year 2019/20, it costs between €6,745 and €11,591 in rent for the two semesters in UCD. Most who stay on campus will be paying more than €7,000 to do so.

Even at the lowest end, that’s €749 a month, meaning that rents have risen 76% at UCD in the past decade.

UCD Student Union’s welfare officer, Una Carroll, told that some students – who aren’t in on-campus accommodation – have even told her they have stayed in Dublin Airport for the night as they had no alternative arrangements for the night and they face a long commute.

She outlined the types of issues that she sees in her role at the university. “The general and most common example is students presenting at risk or who are homeless,” she said.

“Around 9/10 students that come in here [do so due to] financial difficulties. Recently we’ve had an increase in the number of students arriving in our door carrying sleeping bags instead of their books.

“We have students who are sleeping in cars, their friend’s cars, [or] on the floors of their friends’ accommodation.”

Last weekend, looked at the cost of on-campus student accommodation nationwide. We found that it can cost between €5,982 and €8,226 at Trinity College Dublin, between €2,600 and €4,900 at Maynooth University, and from €3,750 (for a twin bedroom shared with another) to €6,942 at NUI Galway.

President of UCD Students’ Union Joanna Siewierska highlighted the pressure of the cost of on-campus accommodation. “One of the key issues is that we are only providing accommodation which is at the top scale. We are not providing accommodation for students which is subsidised,” she said.

“It’s a very targeted plan to have accommodation which is the most expensive,” she added. “This is a public institution and not a business. Our role is to provide education. We have excellent courses and lecturers here. And there are those who have the grades and the ambition to want to succeed here and they should be able to do that. 

“We are only accessible to those who can afford the rent. If you’re from a rural town – the message is – if you can’t afford it then don’t come here.”

Students at UCD are preparing for a large-scale demonstration next week.

They are demanding a reversal of the 12% increase to campus rents as well as the establishment of a rental support scheme to support student renters. 

Also this week, students called on the University of Limerick to reverse a decision to add a second bed to some of the single rooms in its accommodation.

In a statement UL Student life said it is “appalled” at the situation and said the announcement came too late in the year to allow students time to find alternative arrangements for September.  

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