Friday 19 December 2014

Rent crisis is looming as students return to college

'Digs' are back in fashion for house-hunting students

Claire McCormack

Published 19/08/2014 | 02:30

Students are being forced to stay in digs and hostels as the renting crisis continues and first semester looms.

Websites offering accommodation solutions for third-level students are reporting a huge surge in the number of 'digs' on offer compared to this time last year, with one, CollegeCribs.ie, saying the numbers are up 50pc.

"Digs are becoming more popular because there is a massive lack of accommodation ahead of the college year," said Edward Thurman, co-founder of the site featuring property listings for every university, IT and college in Ireland.

He said the increase in 'digs' and 'owner occupied' adverts was most evident in Dublin.

Digs were popular during pre-boom college years and Mr Thurman said students can underestimate the conditions - where a student stays in a family home, paying a flat rate for lodgings and board.

"There is a bit of a perception out there that living in digs means having less independence," said Mr Thurman.

"But there aren't many options at the moment and for first years, the home comforts of digs might actually make it easier to transition."

Over the past week, students and representatives have been appealing to Dublin homeowners to help stem the shortage.

"This is a very serious situation. There are over 80,000 students in Dublin and there is a severe lack of purpose built accommodation," said Laura Harmon, president at the Union of Students Ireland (USI).

Ms Harmon and her team are organising campaigns at shopping centres and other public areas to raise awareness.

"Homeowners can rent out a room for up to €10,000 tax free," said Ms Harmon, recently involved in the launch of a website to connect students with potential landlords (see home.usi.ie).

The USI President also highlighted an average 13pc increase in the cost of campus accommodation in Dublin and is calling on political intervention.

"If there isn't a long-term strategy put in place it will affect drop-out rates and stop students attending Dublin colleges," she said.

However, the USI doesn't want to students to panic and advises lots of research.

Stephen Large, Dublin service manager at Threshold, a national housing charity, said: "For parents, the costs are well beyond what they expected. They're unhappy with choices, quality and standards."

"If there are any spare rooms going in the Dublin area they they should be rented out where they can," he said.

Individual student unions are also grappling with calls from home hunters.

Eva Kerton, welfare officer at DCU, said: "The situation at the minute is a bit bleak. Prices have gone up so much in the centre that DIT and Trinity students are coming out towards us in Drumcondra and Glasnevin.

"Students are left feeling they have to live in substandard accommodation with no heating, no appliances, in damp conditions and on very tight budgets," she said.

Fergal Hynes, president of the Student Union at UCD said one of themain concerns is accommodating international students.

"Rents have gone up by 14pc in the UCD areas of Blackrock, Booterstowns, Clonskeagh and Donnybrook," said Mr Hynes, "if you are coming from another country into the unknown it's incredibly difficult to get settled."

Hostels around the city are also becoming an alternative as special packages are being prepared.

"We get requests every year from students around September looking to stay short term," said Julie Anne Ennis, Head of Marketing Communications at An Óige, a 230-bed International Youth Hostel.

This September the hostel, based on Mountjoy Street, intend to offer students a special package. The "Find your Feet" package will cost around €60 a week for four nights bed and breakfast and €102 for seven nights.

Irish Independent

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