Nationwide student accommodation crisis symptom of lack of housing strategy

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LABOUR housing spokesperson has said the student accommodation crisis is another symptom of a failed approach to housing in this country. In advance of USI’s No Keys No Degrees protest today, Senator Moynihan said Government needs to start investing in student accommodation and stop allowing providers or colleges to treat them as cash cows.

Listing a range of options available to the Government to immediately tackle the problem, Senator Moynihan said the time has come for strategic thinking when it comes to housing stock.

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Senator Moynihan said:

“The situation we find ourselves in is a symptom of the lack of control, planning or indeed purpose with our housing strategy overall. Rather than having a coherent and cohesive plan for students, this Government is failing to manage housing on the most basic of levels. What message does this send to the young people of Ireland, the future of our country?

“Students need affordable and purpose-built housing. Not only for themselves but for the whole market. Due to the pandemic, we have a situation where many landlords that previously offered places to students have now pivoted to using their accommodation for families. This is a larger symptom of the total dearth of supply in the market and an offset of the five wasted years of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil when it comes to building homes for people.

“It’s clear that we need to take a State led approach to delivering social and affordable housing and State-led developments of affordable student accommodation must also be a feature of this to take the seasonal pressure off the rental market. The Minister needs to consider a student cost-rental system to provide additional affordable stock though the third level institutions. We need to look at the housing stock and supply in areas of high-student density and identify areas that are under the most pressure like Waterford, Galway and Thurles.

“We need stronger planning guidelines on student accommodation to stop developers attempting to turn purpose-built student accommodation into apartments for tourists. There are several luxury student accommodation builds across inner city Dublin and we cannot allow developers to convert them into tourist apartments at a whim. Labour’s Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 would restrict this practice and put more fairness and certainty into the process. While not a silver bullet, it would ensure that purpose built student accommodation is used for students and students alone. Allowing “flexibility” in the planning status of a site seriously undermines the original intent and purpose of a planning system to shape communities for the long run.

“Students, like all renters, deserve certainty of tenancy and affordability. We need to cap what can be charged in purpose built student accommodation and stop the practice of annual increases in institutions like Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick. It’s not sustainable. Students should not have to sleep out to show the Government just how dire the situation is. Student accommodation is something that could be and should be planned for.”