'Digs' are best solution to housing crisis - Bruton
Old fashioned 'digs' are the best short-term solution to the student housing crisis, the Education Minister has said.
As the scramble for accommodation continues, Richard Bruton urged more householders to consider renting out a room to a third-level student.
Mr Bruton said the Government had put in place a "significant incentive for somebody to offer the most traditional digs-type setting that students have availed of in the past".
Usually a digs-style arrangement involves a student paying a homeowner directly for a room, breakfast and dinner.
The number of this type of accommodation currently availing is unknown but the Union of Students in Ireland estimates that just 7pc of students are in digs.
Mr Bruton said the problem facing students will only be properly solved when more supply comes on stream. An extra 2,500 purpose-built student units are available when compared with last year - but student representatives say many are having to turn down third-level places because they can't afford the spiralling rent costs.
"We are recovering from an extraordinary property boom that saw the house-building level fall from 93,000 to under 8,000. That's what we're seeking to recover from, a completely broken system," Mr Bruton said. "It's going to take time to rebuild."
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor urged students "not to panic at the moment".
She said they shouldn't sign leases until they are sure and to be "very careful" that they know who they are dealing with.
"Digs are a really good solution for parents, especially for young people coming to university for the first time," she said.
The ministers were speaking at the launch of a new €16.5m initiative aimed at widening access to third-level education.
Mr Bruton said they want to encourage more people from "non-traditional backgrounds" into higher education.
- Read more: 'I had to move to another county' - Foreign student tells of 'dreadful' rental experience in Dublin
Two hundred students will benefit from a bursary scheme this year, worth €5,000 each. Lone parents will be a key target group, the minister said.
Colleges are also being asked to compete for €10.5m funding by submitting innovative proposals for getting more people from minority and disadvantaged groups into higher education. Mr Bruton said the Government wants to improve educational opportunities for everyone from young children to adults.
He said Ireland does not have an adequate early childhood system. Earlier this week the Irish Independent revealed that Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is seeking an extra €300m for her department in Budget 2018.
"There can be no doubting that a professionally delivered childcare service that has early education means those children come to school better prepared, get better opportunities from the education system, and progress better throughout their career," Mr Bruton said.