Housing crisis leaves students stressed and exhausted
Students sleep in fields, in cars, crammed into hostels, pay up to â¬ 400 a week to stay in a hotel, surf on a couch, or work up to five hours a day attending lectures .
Some have not been able to follow their first preference course, others have postponed or even abandoned. This is the worst student housing crisis we have ever seen in this country.
Despite warnings from myself and others that this crisis was coming, the government largely ignored it. As a lecturer, I see in my lessons the personal toll of the housing crisis. Students are stressed, anxious and exhausted.
But how did we get there? Like the larger housing crisis, the student housing crisis is not an “accident” or a force of nature. It didn’t just appear like wild mushrooms popping up overnight. It happened because the students were left to the whims of the market and investor funds. And that’s what happens when you leave housing to the whims of the private market – you accumulate crisis after crisis.
Launched in July 2017, the government’s National Student Housing Strategy was based on pushing the private sector (and primarily global real estate investors) to provide Specially Built Student Housing (PBSA).
The standard size of housing was reduced and there was no obligation to provide 10% of housing with social housing, a large subsidy for investors. Real estate funds could also minimize their tax bill through tax relief from real estate investment funds.
The strategy had little funding for student accommodation provided by the state through higher education institutes. Thus, of the 8,229 PBSA units completed since 2016, an overwhelming majority – 84% – are private accommodation, and only one in six is ââstudent accommodation through public postgraduate colleges.
The problem is, the PBSA private investor is very expensive and no average student can afford it. Rooms cost up to â¬ 1,000 per month. Which student can afford it?
In addition, they are increasingly being converted into short-term tourist accommodation. Up to a third of the private AOSP built over the past five years has been taken away from students and used for tourists. Why haven’t the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Housing taken action on this?
Student housing has always been an afterthought in housing policy. The National Student Housing Strategy has committed to producing a quarterly report to monitor progress.
Yet its last progress report dates back to the third quarter of 2019, two full years ago. Unbelievable. The strategy also set up an interdepartmental steering group for all stakeholders. Yet this group has only met once in the past year and has made no contribution to the recent Housing for All plan.
Indeed, students only get a few paragraphs out of its 150 pages, and there is no assessment of student accommodation needs or targets for the provision of state-funded student accommodation. Given this lack of proven enlightened policy, we shouldn’t ask ourselves why we have such a crisis.
Unfortunately, the crisis is also negatively affecting access to education for students from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds. Education is stimulating and life changing. I see this in my students, who gain new self-confidence as their resilience, knowledge and skills grow.
The housing crisis is a real risk to increase the access of disadvantaged students to the third level, and even if they can access it, it reduces their ability to realize their potential, reducing their ability to study and engage in life. college life.
Despite statements to the contrary, immediate action can be taken. The Minister of Higher Education could organize an emergency meeting of key stakeholders, and the Minister of Housing could introduce legislation to prevent the transformation of private APSP into tourist accommodation.
There is a factory in Carlow that can build a modular house in 11 days. With funding, it could deliver 2,000 units per year, he says. That’s more units than universities built over the past five years. Why couldn’t he build student housing for next September?
I pointed out the old Corrib Hotel, abandoned for over a decade, located right next to GMIT in Galway. Old derelict hotels can also be found overlooking Waterford City and Limerick. The owners of these buildings should be issued purchase orders by local authorities, bought by the state and redeveloped or rebuilt into student housing.
Developers of private AOSP should also be brought into compliance with Part V obligations. Allocating 10% of these developments to affordable student housing makes sense.
Many higher level institutes can borrow to build student accommodation. We should put in place goals and plans to achieve this, with a specific capital grant in the upcoming October budget. The state agency Nama could also transfer land to colleges at very low cost, and finance the rapid construction of student housing there.
As a Campaign Officer for the Students’ Union of Ireland (USI) in 2004 at the height of the Celtic Tiger, I organized a âsleep outâ protest in student accommodation.
USI is hosting another night of sleep, ‘No Keys No Degrees’ – at DÃ¡il on Wednesday. Fifteen years later, we are back in another real estate bubble, another real estate crisis. When will we see the right deed to get us out of this Groundhog Housing Emergency Day?
- Dr Rory Hearne is Assistant Professor of Social Policy in the Department of Applied Social Studies at Maynooth University