by Alan Jacques
A LACK of accommodation and rising rents are causing huge problems for students trying to set themselves up for the new academic year.
That’s the view of Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins who has called for an urgent response from Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan on the “student accommodation crisis”.
The latest rental report from Daft.ie shows the average cost of renting a single room in Limerick city centre is up 24 per cent since last year. The average rent for a single room is €282; a double room is €315, and the average rent in Limerick City for a three-bed house is now almost €720.
“Students are now in the process of accepting their CAO offers which will determine what college they’ll be going to and the search for accommodation is well underway. But there are huge challenges ahead for them. The crisis in student accommodation is more acute than ever this year because of the escalating housing and homelessness crisis,” said Deputy Collins.
This situation, he insists, has not been helped by the Education Minister continuing to delay on a report which will put forward recommendations on how best to tackle the problem.
“The Higher Education Authority report was due to be published in April, but Minister O’Sullivan has delayed its release time and time again. Now we have a situation where students are taking up places in colleges and universities without knowing if they have a place to stay. This report is the cornerstone on which our future accommodation needs should be based, but the Minister is continuing to hold off on letting people see it,” he claimed.
Deputy Collins went on to say that the rising demand for accommodation is pushing up rents in Limerick which will have a major impact on students coming to study in UL and LIT.
“New measures must be introduced to ensure that quality affordable student accommodation is built, and I am urging Minister O’Sullivan to publish the HEA report without delay so that the recommendations can be acted on before this crisis deepens any further.”
In response, Minister O’Sullivan told the Limerick Post that she welcomed Deputy Collins’ sudden interest in the area of education policy. She said he was entirely mistaken in his assertion that she was delaying the publication of any report and said she would publish the final HEA report on student accommodation as soon as she receives it.
“Over the four and a half years since the last election, Fianna Fáil has failed to publish a single policy proposal in relation to education. Indeed, even in the document which they published on the housing rental market last week, they neglected to include as much as a mention of students. As we now enter the run-up to an election, I am relieved to see that Fianna Fáil has rediscovered an interest in one of the most important areas of public policy.
“I very much appreciate that there are concerns regarding the availability of accommodation for students in certain areas, and that’s why I have asked the HEA to report on this issue. This report will assist the Department in considering actions to support an increase in student accommodation in the coming years,” she concluded.