Student paid €550 a month for a small attic room with its own wasps’ nest – the crisis of finding a bed deepens
WAKING up to discover a wasps’ nest in the middle of the night was not what recent graduate Hannah Kingston expected during her first year of renting in Dublin.
The 23-year-old from Clonakilty, Co. Cork, moved up to the capital a year ago to complete a master’s degree at Dublin City University. The campus is located in the suburbs of the capital’s northside.
Hannah remembers being shocked by the prices of accommodation. ‘You’d see €500 [asked] for a grotto in someone’s garden, so it was fairly grim,’ she says.
She eventually found a small attic room in a house in Finglas, not too far from the campus, for €350 a month. But with bills on top it was closer to €550.
However, her relief at finding accommodation was shortlived when, to her horror, she woke up one night with a wasp sting in her neck. She asked one of her housemates what was going on. ‘It turned out there was a really developed wasp nest in my closet, so that was pretty sick,’ she says.
Unfortunately Hannah’s predicament is not unique. Many students are forced to accept substandard circumstances due to the serious lack of affordable student accommodation and the wider dire prospects of the private rental sector.
According to a recent report by property website Daft.ie, rents are now 13% higher than at their peak in 2008, along with the worst housing shortage in recent history.
Year on year rents have risen nationally by 11.8% with the average property costing €1,159 a month, with double-digit increases in most cities.
While Dublin is considerably more expensive than the rest of the country – with an average monthly rent of €1,741 – the cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford have seen similar increases. The average cost of a single room in Dublin city centre is €632, up 8% from last year.
Michael Kerrigan, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, says this trend has been years in the making and that it will get worse before it gets better:
‘We’re currently at a shortage of 23,000 student accommodation beds across the country. And the amount that’s being built now doesn’t even match the growth in student numbers, never mind the deficit that’s already there,’ says Mr Kerrigan.
Students have to compete with young families and professionals in the private rental market. They’re at a disadvantage because they look for shorter lease times, while landlords look for a few years.
Hannah Kingston paid €320 for a room during her undergraduate course at University College Cork, slightly below the local average of €399. When she first viewed rooms in Dublin a year ago, she had a number of sobering experiences:
‘There was this one house near Griffith Avenue in north Dublin. I went to look at it and it was like something out of a [comedy] sketch. When we arrived, it turned out it was basically digs. And on every bit of the wall there were Jesus pictures, Virgin Marys and loads and loads of those creepy troll dolls,’ she says.
The bedroom was so tiny that you could feel either side of it with outstretched arms.
‘And the lady showing me the room said: “So that’s €550 a month, not including bills. And if you could not be here on Sunday, that would be great,”’ Hannah says.
‘There was also a lecturer living there in another room. I don’t know how he would take that room, it must’ve been out of despair.’
A few weeks ago, Hannah was asked to move out of the attic room in Finglas, after several disagreements with one housemate, who was also the son of the landlord. She says: ‘I was scared that I would have to move back to Cork. I have two jobs in Dublin and work six days a week. It would have been a nightmare.’
Fortunately a friend who was moving left a room vacant for Hannah. She says: ‘From the point of view of trying to start your career after college, it’s really hard to have to deal with this as well.’
‘Shortage of 23,000 student beds’
nowhere to go: Hannah Kingston had to accept substandard conditions