Need to find student accommodation? Then don't tell them you're a student
Dublin is in the grip of a major housing crisis. And as Wayne O'Connor finds, students desperately seeking shelter have little hope of finding a flat or affordable apartment at the moment
PARENTS and teachers spend years teaching children about the virtues of honesty and telling the truth, but it appears that the best way to survive on the road to college is to lie.
This week I posed as a first year UCD student, homeless in Dublin, in search of accommodation fit for a rag-week king.
However, the task immediately proved more difficult than I had initially thought. Daft.ie and Rent.ie were littered with lines saying "students need not apply".
I felt cheated and shafted. "What's wrong with me?" I wondered as I worried about my palace away from mammy.
When following up on adverts that did not warn students off, I was told that the properties were actually "gone" when agents and landlords discovered that I was a college-goer. But follow-up calls proved that these properties were in fact available to other clientele.
Struggling to find a suitable abode and seeking advice, I turned to a second-year student for guidance.
"Lie," she told me.
"We were calling agents and landlords every day and having no luck so we pretended to be graduates with full-time jobs and only recently got a place. We're probably going to have to break our lease when college finishes and lose our deposit, but it is worth it."
However, it is more difficult for 'us' first years to find housing as we have not had the same time available to search. Many first years were only offered college places in the past seven days.
Aoife Grugan (18), from Ballymacnab, Co Armagh, is due to begin studying law in UCD in September.
Like me, she found house hunting to be difficult and noticed that landlords do not want the hassle of dealing with students.
"It was only really when the offers came and I found out that I was not able to get on-campus housing that I could start looking. Thursday was really the first day that I got to consider going out and looking for accommodation. It is very hard to get somewhere and a lot of landlords don't want students," she said.
During my search, I contacted no fewer than 10 letting agents and a number of landlords for various properties. Viewing a one-bedroom apartment in Dublin 8 for €1,100 per month is the closest I got to finding something suitable, but that was more than double my budget.
The majority of agents told me that they do not cater for students while others said that they have not had any suitable accommodation for weeks.
Lisney auctioneers told me that the landlords that they work with "don't want students".
A similar message came from O'Brien Swaine, who said: "I think the best option is going to be calling to the college because it seems that digs is all that is available at the moment," said a staff member at O'Brien Swaine.
Aoife said that she would consider digs but only as a last resort.
"I am still going to search for a house and it will probably end up being in the centre of Dublin where the prices are high but it is probably the only place where I will get in at the moment, otherwise I will resort to digs," she said.
"I will be realistic about it and not pay an extreme price for top-notch accommodation but I understand that you have to pay a considerable price to live in Dublin. It is high and there is no way of avoiding that," she added.
After conceding defeat in my search for a house or apartment, I took the plunge and resorted to digs, thinking that while I will not have the independence that I might wish for in college, I would have shelter, meals, bed linen and bills at a reasonable price.
However, one digs landlord near UCD said that while breakfast would be provided every day, access to the kitchen in the house was not possible and that restaurants and facilities on campus would have to suffice for my lunch and evening meals.
This would lead to me spending at least an extra €75 per week on campus to keep hunger at bay and the occasional pre-bed or post- pub snack was totally ruled out. "An instant non-runner," I told myself.
For those who do not want to stay in digs it is unlikely that accommodation will become available in the coming weeks. Even some of the new student accommodation at the former Montrose Hotel has been delayed for a fortnight.
There are 40pc fewer properties available in the capital now compared to the same period last year aligned with a 15pc increase in rents.
It appears that my dream of a rag-week kingdom is to be replaced by an empty wallet, an emptier belly and a bean an tí who doesn't do dinners.