Friday 19 January 2018

Catherine Devine: Securing student accommodation on campus is the Hunger Games of the rental crisis

Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games Photo: Lionsgate
Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games Photo: Lionsgate
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

The dreaded annual rush for student accommodation has kicked off once again as thousands of first-year college students received their college acceptance letters.

My younger brother (19) recently accepted his chosen course at Maynooth University but soon excitement turned to dread when my family began to look for accommodation.

Commuting to college from Co Donegal was clearly not a realistic option, and soon my brother feared he wouldn't be able to attend his chosen university.

The average rent in Co Kildare now stands at €1,156, up 11.5pc since last year.

As previously revealed by Independent.ie, not one house-share for the average rental price or below appears on any of three property websites for the Maynooth area.

"Great, super, thanks for the uplifting news article," my dad joked to me after the piece was published. I could sense the panic, fear and hopelessness in my dad's voice.

Our only saving grace was that Maynooth University saved 200 places at their on-campus student accommodation for incoming first years. But thousands of first year students attending Maynooth would be fighting for these rooms.

It was like a scene from Hunger Games in our family yesterday as we waited for the link for the first year student accommodation to go live at midday.

It was first-come, first-served. Survival of the fittest.

We had four family members set up at computers, ready to take on every other desperate family in Ireland trying to secure student accommodation.

We each had all the details we needed and were linked by mobile, Facebook messenger and our work phones.

When the link went live at noon, the Hunger Games of student accommodation kicked off.

I rushed through putting in my brother's CAO number, email address and any other details that were required. It was a matter of who could type the fastest and get through the form as quick as possible.

I was in! There were rooms available! Rejoice!

In a blink of an eye, the web-page quickly began to fill with blue and pink icons showing that the rooms were being booked by male and female students. I saw one room was free and clicked instantly but as I did, someone else did as well and a blue icon flashed before my eyes.

I clicked the next available room, not even sure what type of room it was or what price. All other factors would have to be considered later. It was pick a random room regardless of conditions or get nothing.

I had 15 minutes to enter debit card details or the room was gone.

Frantic lines of communication were going on between my family members as we all scrambled for a room.

"Dad, I have a room, what's your details?" I bellowed over the phone.

My dad was in utter shock that I had a room. He was number 519 in a queue. It was 12:08 and the link had only gone live eight minutes previously.

519 desperate people were already on a waiting list trying to get into the system.

Soon, I had 10 minutes left to secure the room.

"GIVE ME YOUR CARD DETAILS, THAT'S ALL YOU NEED TO DO," I yelled over the phone as my family members were still in the chaos of trying to find a room.

I forgot I was sitting in the middle of the office, but I was battling the absolute Hunger Games of the rental crisis.

With eight minutes left on my timer, the room was paid for and secured.

My dad looked at his email confirmation in disbelief.

"Are we sure we've got it? Yes we've paid for it, we've got it surely?!"

I rang my younger brother in absolute delight and told him he now had a room for the coming year. What a relief.

"Oh, is the accommodation live today? I'm still in bed," he replied.

Thank God for older sisters, eh?

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