Tuesday 27 September 2016

UCD to spend €300m building 3,000 student residences

Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney Photo: Tom Burke
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney Photo: Tom Burke

Government ministers have promised to fast-track the provision of purpose-built student accommodation, on or close to college campuses.

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The move is aimed at freeing up space in the private rental market, while also providing students with quality facilities for their college years.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday that they were tackling it on a number of fronts - including the provision of low-cost funding and a faster planning process.

Mr Coveney was speaking at the launch of a new 354-bedroom student complex at University College Dublin (UCD), along with the unveiling of an ambitious 10-year campus development plan at Ireland's largest university.

Among the projects planned by UCD over the next decade are an additional 3,000 student residences, bringing the on-campus population to over 6,000, or over 24pc of its total student numbers. In line with his wider commitment to prioritise certain projects, Mr Coveney told UCD president Andrew Deeks that he would work to speed up the delivery of the college development.

The cost of the plan is put at €300m

Dublin, in particular, is hit by a critical under-supply of student accommodation: for over 80,000 third-level students, there are fewer than 10,000 purpose-built student bed spaces both on and off university campuses.

Mr Coveney said: "If we can get students out of private rental accommodation into purpose-built student residences, we will free up considerable space for people competing for limited rental properties."

The minister said he was bringing forward legislation to facilitate projects, such as those at UCD, that would expedite the planning processes by fast-tracking planning directly to An Bord Pleanála.

"This is a no-brainer as far as I am concerned," he said. "The Government's Action Plan contains specific commitments that will be critical enablers of delivery of purpose-built accommodation - such as the additional 3,000 here at Belfield."

Mr Coveney said funding was another fundamental issue for universities who wanted to build campus residences, as they were subject to constraints on the amount they can borrow.

He said access to finance at low cost was key and that his department was working with third-level colleges and the Housing Finance Agency to ensure that they can access funding in the very short term.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said they wanted to deliver an additional 7,000 student accommodation places by the end of 2019, on or off campus, in addition to projects already in motion.

According to a report last year, there were 31,296 beds in purpose-built accommodation, either on or off campus, and a need for another 25,808 to meet the additional demand at that time.

With numbers rising, even the provision of another 15,000 bed spaces over the next decade would still leave the system short at least 20,000 beds.

Read more: Homeowners who rent to students can earn up to €12,000 tax free  

Irish Independent

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