Third-level students across the country are planning a walkout later this year to highlight the extent of the accommodation crisis.
The president of the Union of Students in Ireland Beth O’Reilly said the lack of accommodation has been a “long-running issue” and students will walk out of lectures on October 13 to show the scale of the problem.
Ms O’Reilly said the situation has gotten “exponentially worse” since the Covid-19 pandemic and students are “desperate” to secure accommodation ahead of the academic year.
“The Government haven’t made any commitments really changing the structure of how student accommodation works. They haven’t looked at the idea of rent caps to ensure that accommodation is affordable for students,” Ms O’Reilly told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“They haven’t looked at introducing digs legislation to ensure that students who are in digs receive tenancy protections and as a result our student union members have essentially said, ‘we’re not taking this anymore’ and as a result we were mandated to bring forward a national walkout in all of our member organisations.
“This will be the first year that we are fully back on campus for the entire academic year. The situation with accommodation means that students are a lot more desperate for accommodation because they know they won’t have the ability to fall back on distance learning.
“We don’t have any online lectures this year so as a result, students will need to be on campus, and they will need to find accommodation or else face commuting for up to five hours.”
Ms O’Reilly said many students are at risk of having to consider options such as staying in hostels or couch surfing.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that it’s got to this point but before Covid we did see stories like this of students who weren’t able to afford accommodation and as a result they stayed in their cars or couch surfed for the year or stayed in hostels,” Ms O’Reilly said.
“But I definitely think the situation is headed that way again this year given the amount of stories we’ve been hearing so early on, and first years still haven’t gotten their college results yet, so they don’t know where they’re going to be attending college.
“They have about two weeks between getting their CAO results and actually starting college so it’s a very difficult time to be a student and it’s a very difficult time to find accommodation for everybody.”