Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has accused the government of failing third-level students struggling to find accommodation due to the housing crisis.
She has called on the government to act urgently and end this cycle, which unfairly and increasingly excludes students from families on low incomes.
Speaking today, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“I am being contacted by students across the country who are anxious and stressed about securing accommodation in time for the new academic year. Students feel abandoned by this government and left to navigate the housing crisis alone.
“The lack of supply, the overall housing crisis and the year-on-year on-campus student rent increases combine to create a perfect storm for students needing accommodation. The lack of affordable student accommodation is preventing students from pursuing their third-level choices and future career goals.
“I have been contacted by students across the country who have been pressured by student accommodation providers to pay several months’ rent in advance despite recent legislation restricting up front payments to one month’s deposit and one month in advance. These are eye-watering sums which simply aren’t possible for families on ordinary incomes to pay. Students feel desperate and trapped in this unfair housing system.
“I have made Higher Education Institutions and Minister Harris aware of this and asked them to remind accommodation providers that this is now illegal. Despite this, students aren’t being protected.
“Earlier this year we saw the new student bedrooms built at UCD demand a rent of €1,000 per month. This demonstrates the need to introduce regulation to ensure that all new builds are made affordable.
“We are in danger of driving towards a situation where students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are excluded from certain third level institutions. This is compounded by the fact that SUSI rates have not increased since 2012 and University fees here are the highest in the EU.
“The government can no longer turn a blind eye to this issue and must act. As a matter of urgency, the Government must make capital grants available for Higher Education Institutions to build public owned student accommodation on campuses and on public land. Local Authorities should also be provided with funding to build student specific accommodation.
“Technological Universities must be enabled to borrow money to build accommodation to meet the growing demands of their student population.
“Students need fit for purpose student accommodation at an affordable cost. Affordable Accommodation is a key component of third level education for most students. Investment in higher and further education must include investment in accommodation that meets the needs of low and middle-income families.
“Facilitating developers to build high end expensive accommodation to attract wealthy international students will do nothing to ensure equality of access to third level education for struggling families. The real problem of affordability and supply must be tackled without any more excuses.
“Every August, these issues return as the government fails each and every year to tackle the housing crisis. Students from families with low incomes are paying the price for this government’s inaction on the dysfunctional housing market.
“I am urging the government to act and address the housing crisis so that students can access decent housing which allows them to pursue their education. It should shame us all to think that in 2021, students are being shut out of higher education due to their families’ inability to pay extortionate sums of rent.
“There can be no more rhetoric or vague promises from the Minister, action is needed now to deliver the real change that students urgently need.”