January 31, 2024
Return of PPPs for student accommodation spells more bad news for affordability – Mairéad Farrell TD

Mairéad Farrell TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, said the return of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as part of the National Development Plan for the delivery of student accommodation demonstrates that the government is completely out of ideas. 

Responding to Minister Harris’ appearance before the Education Committee, where he indicated that for the Technological Universities the use of PPPs for the delivery of student accommodation is being considered, Teachta Farrell said that this spells more bad news for students. 

Although the use of PPPs was limited following the collapse of Carillion and the debacle of its school building projects, the National Development Plan had kept open the option that they could be used for the delivery of student accommodation.
Teachta Farrell said:
‘PPPs have a poor track record when it comes to value for money. As the Parliamentary Budget Office previously noted about PPPs “it may be difficult to define the quality of the service to be delivered within a contractual agreement; this may lead to the service provided being of poorer quality than had it been provided directly by the public sector”.
‘PPPs have a poor track record when it comes to the delivery of the likes of social housing. As my colleague Eoin O’Broin had previously pointed out, the cost of managing and maintaining social housing units via PPPs over 25 years is almost six times higher than standard social housing.
‘So this spells bad news for students, as the higher costs of managing and maintenance will invariably be pushed onto students and parents.
‘What I find ridiculous is the lack of any kind of fresh thinking or ideas in this government. Every new policy initiative they have is just a carbon copy of what has worked poorly elsewhere.
‘First the government had us moved away from purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) provided by the Universities themselves, by providing special tax and planning concessions to large investment (vulture) funds in order to make them the main delivery stream.
‘The transformation of student accommodation into an alternative investment class for institutional investors mirrored what happened in Britain and the US.
‘Now we are following them down the same path again by having joint ventures, aka PPPs, for the delivery of PBSA.
‘When Minister Harris has no ideas, he just re-announces his existing policy, and when he has had ideas its usually something he has picked up from elsewhere. This won’t improve affordability, it will just make things worse.’

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