Monday 26 February 2018

'Students left with nothing once rent is paid'

Fears drop-out rates will rise as costs continue to increase

USI head Michael Kerrigan: ‘People are spending all they have on rent’. Picture: Andres Poveda
USI head Michael Kerrigan: ‘People are spending all they have on rent’. Picture: Andres Poveda
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

More than a quarter of college students will be broke once their rent is paid this year, according to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

An online survey conducted for the USI earlier this year found 29pc of third-level students do not have an income exceeding €500 a month, even though 58pc of students expect to pay between €251 and €500 a month in accommodation costs.

As a result, many students will either be forced to drop out of college, get a part-time job or take out a loan in order to pay for food, travel, books and other necessities, according to USI president Michael Kerrigan.

"People are spending everything they have on rent," he told the Irish Independent.

"They can't afford books and they can barely afford food," he said.

Escalating rents and the shortage of affordable accommodation means many will have to make a trade-off between having a roof over their head or putting food on the table or paying their bills, he added.

"It's a case where students are taking on leases they realise are not sustainable and they won't be able to afford anything else," he said.

Some students will turn to parents or family to bridge the gap, if possible. But others may have to take out loans if they can get them.

However, many will be forced to get part-time jobs which will not only interfere with their studies, but could force them to miss classes and fall behind, he said.

Read More: 'Fake landlord scammed us out of €1,500 as we looked for flat'

"It becomes a vicious circle. They're missing out on lectures and falling behind. It's also having a direct effect on their exams," said.

His concerns were echoed in a report by the League of Credit Unions, which found that almost a quarter of students are skipping class in order to work part-time shifts, while two-thirds of students said financial pressures are having a negative impact on them.

The USI, meanwhile, is urging students who have accepted CAO offers to look for accommodation immediately due to the crisis.

A study published by the USI yesterday found more than a third of third-level students (36pc) need between one to three months to find accommodation for the upcoming academic year.

It also found one-in-five students has previously experienced unexpected rent increases during the college year.

The warning came after property website published its Q2 Rental Report, indicating that rents have reached an all-time high while the private rental market struggles to cope with demand. The average monthly rent nationwide is now €1,159.

The Simon Communities Ireland housing and homeless charity said the Government's introduction of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) last year, in which rents in designated areas cannot be increased beyond 4pc, do not go far enough to address the crisis.

Read More: Review to help lone parents get back into education

"We need measures which impact all tenancies and limit rent increases within all tenancies. Full rent certainty and security of tenure are the building blocks for a stable rental sector and we renew our call for their urgent introduction," said the charity's spokeswoman Niamh Randall.

"Loopholes in existing legislation must be closed, restricting landlords with more than three properties from invoking Section 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act to issue notice of termination to tenants. In addition, to address the issue of unreasonable deposits being requested at the commencement of tenancies, we must legislate for a statutory maximum of one month's deposit to be paid at the commencement of a new tenancy," she said.

Meanwhile, COPE Galway said its homeless services were struggling to deal with an "unprecedented homelessness crisis in the city" with an increasing number of rough sleepers turning to it for help.

Spokesman Martin O'Connor said additional social housing and the use of vacant property is urgently needed to address the problem. "It's very clear to us the private rental market does not offer a solution to the crisis we are struggling to deal with," he said.

Irish Independent

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