The Airbnb effect puts 'digs' back in vogue for those who want better value
Living in 'digs' is back in vogue for students looking for better value accommodation - thanks to the Airbnb effect.
As rents are pushed to new highs, growing numbers of college-goers are reverting to the tradition of taking a spare room in a family home.
International online accommodation services, such as Airbnb and Homestay, which offer rooms in family homes, may be a factor in the revival of the trend.
Brian Gormley, manager of Campus Life, the support service for students in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), said there had been a resurgence of popularity in 'digs' over the past year.
"Maybe people are more comfortable with the idea of staying in another person's home because the likes of Airbnb have made it fashionable again," he said.
Mr Gormley said research showed that students who stayed with a family were more satisfied than those who rented. He cited a survey conducted a number of years ago which showed that 37pc of students in digs were very satisfied with their accommodation, compared with 27pc in student residences.
He said DIT followed that up recently with an internal survey, which confirmed the result of students being more satisfied with digs/host family than with purpose-built student accommodation.
He said the image of modern-day 'digs' was quite different from the past "where there might have been a sense of the landlady checking up on you".
Digs represents the best value accommodation option for students, as hidden costs such as heating are included and meals may also be provided, although some are on a self-catering basis.
While the digs option allows students to keep their accommodation and living costs down, it can bring a windfall to the host.
New rules, introduced last year, allow a homeowner to earn up to €12,000 a year tax free for renting out a spare room, or rooms. A self-contained unit, such as a basement flat or a converted garage attached to the home, can also qualify for what is known as 'rent a room relief'.
Student union reps are strongly encouraging students to opt for rooms in family homes in the absence of sufficient purpose-built accomodation.
Domhnaill Harkin, outgoing welfare officer at Dublin City University, said his union was doing all it could to highlight the benefits of choosing to live with a homeowner or family.
"What we recommend is digs. We get a lot of students who are struggling to find anything and end up happy living in a family home," he said.