'Extortionate' student rents must be addressed, says student leader

ireland
'Extortionate' Student Rents Must Be Addressed, Says Student Leader
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) president, Clare Austick says accommodation continues to be one of the largest challenges facing third-level students.
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Muireann Duffy

The Government must provide funding to aid third-level institutions in delivering purpose-built student accommodation, according to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

As students return to campus for the autumn semester over the coming weeks, the shortage of accommodation is once again proving to be a major issue in parts of the country.

USI president Clare Austick says accommodation is one of the largest challenges facing third-level students at the moment, particularly for incoming first years, many of whom received CAO offers earlier today.

The later date for the release of this year's Leaving Certificate results, and subsequently the CAO offers, is "putting a lot of pressure on students," Ms Austick says, adding the delay has made for a "very short turnaround" between accepting their place in college and starting classes.

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"Student accommodation has always been an issue for the last decade," Ms Austick says.

"We’re in a housing crisis and it's impacting everyone, not just students, but there is definitely a need for increased purpose-built student accommodation and for the Government to allocate capital grants for colleges to build their own purpose-built accommodation both on and off-campus," she adds.

The USI believes increasing the stock of student housing will regulate the market, allowing costs to decrease from their current levels which Ms Austick describes as "extortionate".

Price hikes

Following increases to on-campus accommodation by some colleges ahead of this academic year, Ms Austick states the USI oppose such price hikes, particularly given the financial strain placed on students and their families due to Covid.

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She adds that many students may have lost their part-time or full-time jobs due to restrictions, and given the "increased stress and pressure that the last number of months have brought" the rents should not have been increased.

"Our stance is always that we want accommodation to be affordable. We don’t want luxury accommodation - we want places for students to be able to stay in, to have a place to study, to relax, and to have a place that’s a home away from home - so we’re opposed to any kind of increase."

While the return to campus has been widely welcomed, Ms Austick acknowledges there many be some students who are more wary of getting back to the classroom, while others may not be in the position to attend in-person due to being immuno-compromised themselves, or living with someone who is at high-risk.

Ms Austick believes such students "absolutely need to be included in the conversation" to ensure they do not miss out, "making sure that everyone can access third-level education in-person or online for this academic year".

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