Gary Mulcahy, student accommodation and community life officer at University College Cork, said the problem for students was affordability rather than availability
Talk of a student-accommodation crisis in Cork has been greatly overplayed and there are enough beds in the city to cater for every student that will need one for the coming academic year.
That’s according to a senior UCC official, who said the key problem facing students in the search for suitable accommodation was one of affordability rather than availability.
Gary Mulcahy, student-accommodation and community-life officer at University College Cork (UCC) insisted there was a difference in accommodation issues between the general public and students, pointing out there were almost 7,000 purpose-built student beds in Cork, with more coming down the line.
“It is really important for people to understand that there are plenty of beds for everybody. The problem is not availability, the problem as we see it on the ground is that not everybody can afford the type of accommodation that is currently available,” said Mr Mulcahy.
According to figures on UCC’s own website, apartment-style purpose-built student accommodation ranges from between €6,000 to €10,000 per annum, and private rentals range from between approximately €450 and €600 per month.
“We know there is accommodation currently available, not only in the higher price bracket, purpose-built student complexes, but also in other cheaper-priced houses and digs,” said Mr Mulcahy.
One issue of concern that has raised its head recently is that CAO round-one offers will not be made until September 8, by which time students returning to college will have already secured their accommodation for the academic year. The concern being there will not be enough beds available for the up to 3,500 first-year students.
However, Mr Mulcahy insisted this would not be the case.
“That really is something of a myth. As has already been pointed out, the issue is not that there are no beds out there, it is a lack of reasonably priced accommodation that suits budgets,” said Mr Mulcahy.
He insisted there would be enough beds to cater for demand and to suit all budgets, even if the accommodation available was not perhaps what people might be expecting.
“There can be something of a bottleneck in August and September, and in some respects it can be a bit like musical chairs. But, we do our best to push through this and make sure everybody will get a place,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“Sometimes it might not be what students might expect or want, but they have to be realistic about this. If it’s in digs in Douglas of Ballincollig or perhaps a student complex 3km from campus, that does not matter because it will not impact on their academic or social life. The important factor is that there are beds out there,” he added.
Mr Mulcahy pointed out that UCC runs its own dedicated online student-accommodation search engine (www.studentpad.ie), where people wishing to let out rooms in their homes can advertise them.
He said that UCC will also work with students to ensure they find suitable accommodation within their budget.
“We have a first-year placement service here where we provide a link on our website, and when the first CAO offers come out, we prioritise students that live further away from the university. We search for accommodation for them in tandem with their own search”, he said.
Mr Mulcahy again poured cold water on talk of a ‘crisis’ due to a lack of student accommodation in Cork.
He said there was a lot of scaremongering on the issue that can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety, particularly among first-years students who think they have to get their accommodation sorted before the CAO offers come out or face the possibility of having to turn down a course because they will have nowhere to live.
“What we are saying to people is do not worry at this time,” he said.
“When the CAO offers do come out people will need to be proactive and engage student complexes or search for houses of digs within their budgets,” said Mr Mulcahy.
“If you are proactive you will find a place to live and if you engage with us we will help you as much as we can,” he added.