Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh has today written to Minister Simon Harris calling on him to introduce emergency measures to tackle the student accommodation crisis.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said the Minister has failed to heed multiple warnings to address this crisis, and urged him to convene an urgent meeting with opposition spokespersons, USI and all stakeholders to discuss necessary actions and solutions.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“I have today written to Minister Harris calling for emergency measures to tackle the student accommodation crisis. Time is of the essence now.
“For months, I have been telling the Minister that we are hurtling headlong into an accommodation crisis for students.
“This represents the biggest barrier to third-level education, especially for students from rural areas.
“The chickens are now coming home to roost because of government inaction.
“Students feel that they have been left in the lurch, and the Minister needs to act now before it is too late.
“We simply cannot have a situation where leaving cert students getting their results on September 2nd and CAO offers the following week have to alter their educational and career pathways because they cannot find a place to live near their chosen college.
“Nor can we have students being forced to give up their courses due to lack of accommodation.
“Many students who have been contacting me are from families that are already struggling financially yet do not qualify for SUSI because the criteria does not reflect the financial reality in these households.
“We need urgent capital investment to enable HEIs to progress shovel-ready building projects and provide affordable accommodation.
“On-campus building projects had to be put on hold because it is not economically viable for HEIs to deliver them and offer them at an affordable rate without government financial intervention.
“From my consultations with HEIs, I estimate that between 3,000 and 6,000 beds are at advanced stages and could be progressed immediately as co-funded accommodation projects. Student affordability would obviously be a condition of such funding.
“We need to fully examine the use of rapid build construction units in the here and now as students need immediate action.
“The Minister must also initiate a national awareness campaign on the rent-a-room tax relief to encourage homeowners to participate.
“There can be no more dithering from government.
“There are tangible actions that Minister Harris can take in the here and now to alleviate the accommodation crisis ahead of the start of the college term.”