Friday 9 December 2016

Accommodation report raises serious questions

Published 02/09/2015 | 02:30

This summer, in Berkeley, California, authorities introduced new building safety regulations after the all-too-tragic events of June 16.
This summer, in Berkeley, California, authorities introduced new building safety regulations after the all-too-tragic events of June 16.

Just because students are less likely to complain is no excuse to build accommodation for them that is of any lesser quality than for the rest of the population.

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Housing for anyone should be of a certain standard - full stop. Unfortunately, lax standards in certain developments built during Ireland's construction boom of the early noughties soon became evident, forcing many families to leave their hard-earned homes. This summer, in Berkeley, California, authorities introduced new building safety regulations after the all-too-tragic events of June 16.

The focus of the new report from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) is on the supply of and demand for student accommodation. Some stark findings are presented in terms of how many extra bed spaces are needed now and in the future.

The authors also felt compelled to comment on the quality of some privately-built student accommodation that popped up near third-level colleges in the past decade or so - an issue, they stated, that needed to be considered. They described some of the accommodation as "questionable" in terms of standards and suitability. The report goes no further than that - it was not their brief - but, nonetheless, the very mention of it does raise serious questions, and it needs to be further explored by someone. What exactly is meant by "questionable"?

The problem, where they found it, tended to be with accommodation that had been built with the benefit of tax breaks and capital allowances - which, in the five years of 2004-2008, was worth at least €200m to developers and investors.

The report also refers to accommodation built on college campuses, the majority of which, it states, has been maintained to a high standard. Whether on-campus housing provided by the college, or in the vicinity and privately built, the type of accommodation involved is similar. So, why could the report authors not make the same, more positive finding about privately-built accommodation?

We have a student housing crisis and it is not going to go away for the foreseeable future, even with the plans that are already afoot to provide more accommodation for college-goers.

The HEA makes a series of recommendations to address the crisis, including a variety of State supports to facilitate the provision of thousands more student beds. The taxpayer - who will be helping to fund them - and the students - who will be sleeping in them - are entitled to standards that are beyond question.

Irish Independent

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