Saturday 23 September 2017

23,000 students left without a place to stay as year begins

Education Minister Richard Bruton, Junior Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Junior Minister Damien English and Trinity College Provost Patrick Prendergast with plans for the new student accommodation on Pearse Street. Photo: Maxwells
Education Minister Richard Bruton, Junior Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Junior Minister Damien English and Trinity College Provost Patrick Prendergast with plans for the new student accommodation on Pearse Street. Photo: Maxwells
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Ireland is short of 23,000 purpose-built student bed spaces to meet the demand from college-goers this autumn, according to a new report that outlines plans to tackle the deficit up to 2024.

While demand for student beds is put at 57,075 this year, only 33,441 spaces are available in dedicated student complexes, whether on campus or developed by private providers.

Students also rent in the private market, but they are being increasingly squeezed out of these properties as the general housing shortage drives rents above their reach.

Education Minister Richard Bruton acknowledged the "challenging gap" between supply and demand yesterday as he launched the first National Student Accommodation Strategy to support delivery of at least 21,000 extra purpose-built beds by 2024.

As well supporting new dedicated student residences, a key element of the strategy is to encourage more students to live in family homes. Homeowners can earn €14,000 a year tax-free by renting out a spare room as digs.

According to the report, an estimated 2,500 students took up the digs option in 2016 and the aim is to increase this number to 4,000 by 2019.

The Department of Education is providing €160,000 to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in 2017 and 2018 for its campaign to promote digs to help alleviate short-term pressures.

The housing shortage has compounded the challenge of meeting the demand for student accommodation arising from the growth in college enrolments.

As well as the projected increase in school-leavers, the Government is actively seeking to attract more international students.

Mr Bruton launched the strategy on a site in Pearse Street - formerly Oisin House - where work is starting on a 270-bed student residence for Trinity College Dublin.

Although lagging behind demand, there is considerable activity in the provision of dedicated student accommodation, both within universities and in privately built complexes, and almost 1,500 new bed spaces will open this autumn, with a further 3,807 coming on-stream in 2018 and 2019.

There is planning permission for another 1,995 bed spaces while permission has been sought for a further 3,524.

USI president Michael Kerrigan welcomed the strategy, but said the omission of the cost of accommodation in it raised some concern.

"Already we're seeing newly built student accommodation climbing to almost €1,000 a month," he said, warning that students were being priced out.

He said a USI survey found that 36pc of students spent one to three months looking for accommodation because of the shortage.

Irish Independent

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