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Thursday 18 September 2014

Digs are back as students seek affordable 
residence

Claire McCormack

Published 18/08/2014 | 06:00

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Students at UCC Photo: Emmet Curtin Photography
Hoe or away: the costs.

Moving away from home, for the first time is a big transition for many students - and their parents.

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On campus accommodation, or digs, are always the best options for first years, particularly if they are school-leavers, as they make the transition from home. In general, freshers are advised to avoid the private rental market.

Already many students have applied to live on campus in the college of their choice, or in a dedicated student residence nearby.

Each college has its own arrangements about the allocation of rooms. Campus housing is often oversubscribed, however some have waiting lists and others are still considering bookings. The best advice for those interested is to check with the college, directly.

This year, on-campus prices have gone up in some colleges and the general squeeze in the private rented market has also contributed to the rising cost of accommodation.

As a result, colleges and students unions are pushing digs in a big way.

Digs is where a student stays in a family home, on a five or seven-day week basis, and may either have meals provided or have a self-catering arrangement.

It was once a very popular student accommodation option, but less so in recent years, in part because of the widespread development of colleges' own student residences.

In particular, colleges in Dublin and Maynooth are recommending the digs option.

NUI Maynooth Students Union president, Ben Finnegan said: "The onus is on us as a community to make sure we do our best to facilitate the need for accommodation so that is why we are stressing that digs is a great option for first years."

TCD Welfare Officer Ian Mooney, said: "Prices have gone up massively in the city centre so we are pushing first years to look for digs in areas like Ranelagh, Rathmines, Ringsend on the south side, and Drumcondra and Glasnevin on the north side."

First year interest in digs is also on the rise at third-level institutes in Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Tipperary and Cork.

Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Southern Area Officer Martin Lynch, said: "Digs is a real option for those moving down to UCC, Cork IT and Tralee IT. Mums and Dads want their kids to settle in a nice family home where they'll have a quiet place to study."

All the latest digs adverts are available on various websites including CollegeCribs.ie - featuring property listings for every university, institute of technology and college in the country and the new USI website, home.usi.ie, which lists details of spare rooms around the capital.

In UCD, a new student housing initiative has been set up to alleviate market needs. It is called Generation Accommodation and is aimed mostly at first years. The programme is about matching students, who cannot afford high accommodation costs, with elderly people living alone in the area. However, students will also be obliged to attend a community based event once a month, such as coffee mornings.

The terms of digs contracts are generally decided between the homeowner and the student.

Griffith College offers a Student Exchange Initiative to families of CAO and postgraduate students whereby an Irish student can offset tuition fees for one year in return for their family providing accommodation and board to an international student from the college.

College accommodation officers and student unions are standing by to answer queries and to offer access to resources to help in the accommodation search.

Other useful websites tailored to student accommodation and shared housing options include daft.ie, rent.ie and myhome.ie.

An Óige's Dublin International Youth Hostel has prepared special student packages, intended to offer a start to students, at around €60 a week for four nights bed and breakfast and €102 for seven nights.

Apart from the benefits for first years living in secure, dedicated student residence, or with a family, one reason to avoid the private rental market is because many landlords offer 12-month contracts only.

The 12-month contract is even more prevalent now, because of the general demand for rented accommodation.

Students who are looking at the private-rented market are advised to research the area on offer - take a stroll around and gather as much information as possible.

Angela Keegan, Managing Director at myhome.ie said that students should stay level headed and avoid rushing into agreements.

"Be sensible about your rental, check it out and make sure you are happy and confident that it is up to standard before you exchange any money," she said.

Another key message for students is to speak up and ask all landlords lots of questions at viewings, to ensure there are no hidden extras.

All types of accommodation should offer all mod cons, including Wi-Fi, needed for a student in a connected world.

Before signing any dotted line, students, and their guardians, should be aware of their rights, responsibilities and any relevant legal terms.

Irish Independent

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