Stu­dent fury as col­leges raise rents by ‘max­i­mum al­lowed’ 4pc

Stu­dents’ unions de­cry in­creases as rooms are built or re­freshed on and off-cam­pus

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Kather­ine Don­nelly and Aoife Walsh

STU­DENTS are facing higher ac­com­mo­da­tion costs in Septem­ber as univer­si­ties raise rents for on-cam­pus res­i­dences by the max­i­mum 4pc – or very close to it.

The cap was ap­plied to stu­dent apart­ments last Au­gust to en­sure rent pre­dictabil­ity in the sec­tor, in the same way as it does in Rent Pres­sure Zones (RPZ).

As cam­pus ac­com­mo­da­tion rates for 2020-21 are fi­nalised, most univer­si­ties have also con­firmed in­creases hit­ting the le­gal limit.

It has sparked a fu­ri­ous re­ac­tion among stu­dent lead­ers.

Union of Stu­dents of Ire­land (USI) pres­i­dent Lorna Fitzpatric­k said: “It’s ex­tremely con­cern­ing, stu­dents are al­ready choos­ing be­tween eat­ing din­ners and pay­ing bills.

“A fur­ther in­crease by these in­sti­tu­tions is re­ally wor­ry­ing for stu­dents and their fam­i­lies. They’re strug­gling un­der se­vere fi­nan­cial pres­sure, we have the high­est fees in the EU and spi­ralling rents.”

Ms Fitzpatric­k said the univer­si­ties lob­bied against the leg­is­la­tion, “so we find it ex­tremely con­ve­nient they’re us­ing it to in­crease the rent by the max­i­mum al­lowed”.

All seven tra­di­tional univer­si­ties pro­vide on-cam­pus hous­ing and five have con­firmed rents will rise in Septem­ber.

Mean­while, de­ci­sions are awaited from the other two.

Univer­sity Col­lege Dublin (UCD), Dublin City Univer­sity (DCU) and NUI Gal­way are all ap­ply­ing a 4pc rise, Univer­sity of Lim­er­ick (UL) is bring­ing in a 3.5pc-4pc rise, while Maynooth Univer­sity is rais­ing rents by 3pc.

Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin (TCD) said: “At present there are no plans to in­crease on-cam­pus rents. They are pe­ri­od­i­cally re­viewed but any changes must be ap­proved by Trin­ity’s Fi­nance Com­mit­tee”.

The USI pres­i­dent said she be­lieved a 4pc in­crease was un­der dis­cus­sion at Trin­ity.

Univer­sity Col­lege Cork (UCC) said: “No de­ci­sion on cam­pus ac­com­mo­da­tion rates has been made yet for 2020-21. Stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives are mem­bers of the board that agrees all cam­pus ac­com­mo­da­tion rates.”

Rents con­tinue to rise de­spite the ad­di­tion of thou­sands of new bed spa­ces, both on-cam­pus and in pur­pose-built stu­dent apart­ment blocks off-cam­pus.

In the lat­ter, rents tend to be higher than on cam­pus and stu­dents must com­mit for longer than the typ­i­cal 38 weeks for on-cam­pus ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The pro­vi­sion of more stu­dents beds is nec­es­sary to cater for the on­go­ing rise in de­mand, both from the surge in school-leaver num­bers and the in­flux of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Univer­si­ties de­fend the rent in­creases on the grounds they are not ad­e­quately funded by Gov­ern­ment and they foot the bill – which in­cludes bor­row­ing – for con­struc­tion and re­fur­bish­ment.

UCD said it was ap­ply­ing the cap of 4pc a year for each of the next three years in order to se­cure ad­e­quate fund­ing for the main­te­nance of ex­ist­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion and the pro­vi­sion of 3,000 new beds, 924 of which will be avail­able in Septem­ber.

DCU pointed to its on­go­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion re­fur­bish­ment pro­gramme, as well as plans for a fur­ther 1,240 stu­dent bed­rooms and that “as there are no grants avail­able for such de­vel­op­ments this sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal in­vest­ment will be made by DCU it­self”.

NUI Gal­way at­trib­uted the rise to in­creased op­er­at­ing costs and the re­quire­ment for “sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in the upgrade of the 30-yearold, 764-bed res­i­dence Cor­rib Vil­lage”.

UL said it had spent €20m in re­fur­bish­ing and up­grad­ing cam­pus ac­com­mo­da­tion over the past five years.

UCD Stu­dents’ Union has called for the im­me­di­ate re­trac­tion of the de­ci­sion to in­crease on-cam­pus rents.

Clare Au­stick, NUI Gal­way Stu­dents’ Union pres­i­dent, said they did not know the in­creases were com­ing, adding: “We’d be com­pletely against rent in­crease.

“The rates are ex­tor­tion­ate. It re­ally puts pres­sure on stu­dents in terms of some hav­ing to work more than one job in col­lege.

“For those who have two or three chil­dren in col­lege, it can be re­ally strain­ing on them.”

‘Pres­sure on stu­dents ... some have to work more than one job’

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