Mairéad Farrell TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, said Minister Simon Harris’ latest plan is just a rehashing of his existing plan and won’t deliver the change that students affected by the housing crisis need to see urgently.
Responding to media reports that Minister Harris had sought approval for a new three point plan, Teachta Farrell said this new plans is strikingly similar to the existing plan which is already causing misery for students.
She said that if it resulted in more capital funding for the delivery of on campus accommodation that’s welcome, but as always it seems it’s too little too late when it comes to addressing the major housing crisis students face.
Teachta Farrell stated:
“The housing crisis is causing misery for students. They should be able to focus on their studies, but instead many face unstable living arrangements, unsuitable accommodation or exhausting commutes because of this government’s failure to get to grips with the housing crisis.
“Of course I welcome any progress that can be made toward tackling the student accommodation crisis which has now reach an unprecedented level. However, the time for sticking plasters is long gone.
“It seems all we have is another big announcement from the Minister, which on closer inspection amounts to very little. Students need major change to meet their needs.
“It is essentially a continuation of his current plan. Given that the current plan has failed miserably we are justified in asking what is the point of this big announcement? Is it simply to garner a few headlines, because that’s certainly how it appears.
“Students and their parents deserve so much better than this.
“Whereas our alternative budget laid out €100m in new capital expenditure for the delivery of student accommodation for the current year, which would be provided annually over a three year period, the Government’s budget provided no new funding.
“This announcement is a little bit like the one he made post budget. Clearly caught out by the fact that the government had abjectly failed students and their families, and were roundly criticised, he looked for a big announcement.
“This time it was that €400m would now be made available for Universities to borrow from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The major problem being, they could already borrow from the EIB and have done so. There was nothing new here. Many of our Universities are already highly leveraged. The problem isn’t them being able to borrow, it’s whether they will be able to pay this money back and the kind of extortionate rents they would have to charge students to make these projects financially viable.
“The Minister is now talking about the introduction of some new capital grant to help co-fund projects, but the figures mentioned in media reports are a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.
“What the Minister isn’t telling you is that the government’s real strategy for student accommodation now rests on vulture funds delivering extremely high spec, high cost accommodation, which are beyond affordable for most families. That’s why a report by EY found that around 80% of the room are occupied by international students.
“It’s clear that we need a new approach to the delivery of student accommodation. It’s also clear that this isn’t it.
“A Sinn Féin government would stand up for students and get to grips with the housing crisis. Delivering on housing would be the number one priority of a Sinn Féin government.”