Saturday 20 January 2018

Revealed: Inside the accommodation where 60 students share four fridges, toilets are blocked and rent increased by 38pc

  • Students claim they are living in squalid conditions
  • Rent increased by 38pc this academic year
  • Exclusive photos and footage show interior of houses
  • 60 students sharing four fridges
  • 'Plans are in place for investment' - manager
Accomodation at St Patrick;s College in Drumcondra (Photo: Doug O'Connor)
Accomodation at St Patrick;s College in Drumcondra (Photo: Doug O'Connor)
Accomodation at St Patrick;s College in Drumcondra (Photo: Doug O'Connor)
Accomodation at St Patrick;s College in Drumcondra (Photo: Doug O'Connor)
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin

Hayley Halpin

Students at a Dublin university claim they are living in squalid conditions despite seeing their rent increase by 38pc this academic year.

An undercover investigation reveals that 60 students are sharing each of four houses at St Patrick's College in Drumcondra, on Dublin city's northside.

And exclusive photos and footage, taken by the College View, reveal:

  • Air vents are broken in common rooms
  • 60 students are forced to share four refrigerators
  • Numerous cupboards have no doors while unidentified brown markings were found in kitchens
  • A number of toilets were blocked and unusable

Accommodation at St Patrick's College was recently incorporated under Dublin City University (DCU) and Campus Residences Ltd, a company of DCU via DCU Commercial Ltd that manages on-site campus accommodation in DCU, took ownership of the accommodation on the Drumcondra campus.

In September the annual rent jumped from €3,300 to €4,572 at St Patrick's College - an increase of 38pc. This was to fall in line with the rent prices of accommodation on the main DCU campus. The rent can be made payable in two instalments.

However students claim that they are not seeing any improvement in conditions at the facility.

Accomodation at St Patrick;s College in Drumcondra (Photo: Doug O'Connor)
Accomodation at St Patrick;s College in Drumcondra (Photo: Doug O'Connor)

Campus Residence General Manager, John Caffrey told Independent.ie that plans are in place to invest in the accommodation.

"All of the issues in relation to this area of student accommodation on the St Patrick's campus were rectified once reported," he said.

House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin

"Plans are in place for investment into student accommodation on the St Patrick's campus this summer.

"Campus Residencies Ltd would like to highlight that the issues experienced on the St Patrick's campus are not reflective of the overall quality and standard of accommodation provided across three campuses with a total of 1400 beds available and another 850 beds due to become available over the coming three years."

House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin

Footage

Undercover footage reveals that the communal living area in House 3 had broken air vents situated under the couches.

House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin

The common area is where two of the four fridge freezers in each house is located, with another two located in each house’s kitchen.

There are shared kitchens between House 1 and 2 and between House 3 and 4, each respectively for the use of 120 students, which hold an additional five smaller fridges.

House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin
House 3 at St Patrick's College. Picture: Hayley Halpin

A number of cupboards in the kitchen were found to have no doors. Tiles on the walls were worn and chipped away and there are no toasters fitted.

Photos reveal unidentified brown markings scattered across the kitchen ceiling.

Diarmuid Byrne, first year St Pat’s student and House 3 resident, said it is difficult to find space to cook.

“Come peak time when everyone’s cooking at 6pm, you could be waiting about an hour to cook your food in the kitchen when everyone’s in there," he said.

“There’s very little room in the freezers, everyone is just jamming things in. The fridge doors just keep breaking because obviously there’s just too many things in the fridge. There’s just not enough room for us to hold them.”

Photos and video show that a number of toilets were blocked or broken. The undercover team reported a strong smell of sewage in one bathroom.

According to residents one bathroom, which has two showers and two toilets, is shared between eight students on one floor.

One of the two toilets in the bathroom viewed was unusable due to a blockage in the plumbing which, according to residents, has been an issue since semester one.

The usable toilet has a broken seat.

“Not only is there not enough equipment but what's there does not work. Eight people per floor, sharing two toilets and two showers is horrendous,” resident and first year St. Pat’s student Dylan Raleigh said.

“It’s very hard to live on the campus with the amount of people compared to the level of facilities available,” he said.

“When there’s two toilets between eight people there’s always a block. If there’s two people that need the toilet you’ll either have to run up the stairs or run down the stairs to get to one,” Mr Byrne added.

Mr Byrne said a number of bedroom windows do not fully close.

“The windows are like an inch thin so when there’s a really windy night or something you can just hear battering off the window," he said.

The entrance to the building can easily be deactivated allowing anyone enter the building without a swipe card.

Mr Caffrey explained: “In House 3 the key card lock on the front door does work but is unfortunately being deactivated by residents, or their guests, breaking the fire safety break glass unit that deactivates the magnetic locks keeping the doors secure in order to exit the building without having to use their swipe card.

“In order to combat this we are going to replicate the system currently in use in the other houses whereby a button is pressed in order to exit the building.”

According to Mr Caffrey renovations are due to take place this summer.

“Upgrade works can only be completed on a phased basis in the summer period in order to ensure accommodation is kept on-line for the academic terms, such is the demand for accommodation. One accommodation block at a time will be taken off-line during this summer to facilitate the upgrade works.”

He added: “DCU only acquired the 230 beds on the St Patrick' campus that were built in the 1960's on September 1st, 2016, residences which would be considered dated relative to the Glasnevin campus residences and that require substantial investment.

“Campus Residences is working on putting the required finance in place to proceed with Phase I of refurbishment works on the St. Patrick's Campus which are planned over the summer of 2017,” Mr Caffrey said.

When confronted with the faults uncovered by the reporters Mr Caffrey confirmed that Campus Residence was unaware of any broken air vents and “will investigate this and report to the estates office for repair.”

“Any issues with blocked toilets are dealt with as they are across all three campuses, as soon as they are reported they are investigated and resolved by the estates team,” he said.

However, residents in House 3 stated that they have been experiencing a sewage issue since semester one.

“There are some bedroom windows that are not fully operational and while these are currently repaired on a case by case basis as reported to the estates office we plan to have all windows replaced during the summer,” Mr Caffrey said.

When asked about missing cupboard doors Mr Caffrey said he was only aware of problems in another house.

“In house 4 two doors are missing from the bottom cupboard and this has been reported to the estates office for repair.”

“Campus Residences charge rates that are substantially below equivalent rates in the Dublin area and tries to balance to need to generate income with the need to help upgrade and/or maintain facilities.”

DCU Students' Union Vice President for Education & Placement Manus McLoughlin said he was disappointed that the Irish language names had been removed from the houses and simply rebranded “House 1, House 2” and so forth.

“The four campus buildings in the formerly known St. Patrick’s College were named Lios Mor, Glendalough, Clonmacnoise and Moville,” Mr McLoughlin said.

“They’re all Irish names and they have a history and a meaning behind them and when DCU campus accommodation came in this year, not only did they increase the price but they also abolished the names of the campus buildings. Now they are house one, house two, house three, house four.”

“Apart from the state of affairs, be it health and safety, or the fact that these services aren’t as good as the Glasnevin campus. Imagine if you changed the name Larkfield and Hampstead to house one and house two,” he said.

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