RENTERS STUNG

Stu­dent paid €550 a month for a small at­tic room with its own wasps’ nest – the cri­sis of find­ing a bed deep­ens

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Kevin Dug­gan news@mailon­sun­day.ie

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

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