Monday 26 September 2016

Inter-department working group set up to tackle student housing crisis

Published 02/09/2015 | 13:47

Student Accommodation at the old Montrose Hotel
Student Accommodation at the old Montrose Hotel

An inter-departmental working group is being set up to tackle the student housing crisis.

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A number of Government departments and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) will be involved.

It arises from a HEA report highlighting the need for 25,000 student bed spaces a year to meet the demand, with the biggest problems in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and, to a lesser extent, Limerick.

It is one of two measures announced by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan today following a HEA report highlighting the ongoing shortfall in accommodation, even taking account of new accommodation that is planned.

Ms O’Sullivan also announced a grant of €30,000 for the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) to help them address the housing crisis in the short-term.

The funding will allow USI to develop their homes.usi.ie website, to communicate more effectively to student and homeowners about renting a spare room in a private house,  and to carry out research into  the issue.

Ms O’Sullivan said that “in the short term, one of the best options to increase supply is for people to rent a spare room in their home to students. It's a win-win situation, as students get accommodation and homeowners can earn up to €12,000 a year tax-free doing this.”

The inter-departmental group will work through  recommendations made in the report to support the provision of more  purpose-built accommodation - both on-campus or in the vicinity of third-level colleges -such as capital financing, tax breaks, and planning issues, as well as support for the rent-a-room scheme.

Three Government departments will be represented on the group- the Department of Education, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Finance.

HEA chief executive Tom Boland said a long  term strategy was required  to address student accommodation needs, to meet the growing demand for both domestic and international students.

Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said the Government’s response to the student accommodation crisis has been “utterly abysmal”.

He welcomed the publication of the  HEA report, but said the lack of concrete proposals by the Government meant the crisis would only get worse into the future.

He said while the minister was setting up a  working group, what was needed was a Government fund to enable third level institutions to invest in on-campus accommodation and tax proposals that would make it attractive for colleges to invest in on-campus housing

“The fact of the matter is the academic year is underway and thousands of students have accepted college places but are now struggling to find suitable accommodation” he said. 

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