Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD has warned the government is forcing young people out of university education through their failure to tackle the housing crisis.
Her comments came as she published the results of Sinn Féin’s survey about how accommodation shortages are impacting students. More than 400 people shared their stories, which expose a shocking crisis in access to third-level education.
Speaking this afternoon, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“Today I am publishing the results of Sinn Féin’s survey of students affected by the housing crisis. More than 400 people took part and I want to thank them for taking the time to share their experiences.
“The results are shocking and expose and dire and worsening crisis at the heart of our education system. It is clear that accommodation shortages are forcing young people out of third level education, as many are deferring a college place or dropping out altogether as they struggle to find a suitable place to live.
“The stories shared include a young man who has decided to defer his college place after travelling for six hours per day from Offaly to UCD. Another student was forced to drop out after being mistreated in digs accommodation and was unable to sustain the commute from Mayo to Limerick.
“Throughout all of the stories shared is a clear sense of desperation and panic, as students battle against the clock and against the odds to secure any accommodation that they can. Students shared heart-breaking stories of missing out on having a social life or being involved in their college community, due to working long hours to pay for sky high rent or travelling for hours every morning and evening from their family homes to college.
“77% said they can’t do their course to the best of their ability due to exhaustion or missing classes due to long commutes or due to working long hours or multiple jobs to pay for rent. 66% told us they are considering dropping out altogether or else taking a gap year due to problems securing appropriate accommodation. 92% said that they are experiencing stress or anxiety due to the student accommodation crisis.
“The government must act to end the student housing crisis and ensure all students can live in a suitable, affordable place near their college if they need it.
“We need 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 beds are at advanced stages and could be progressed immediately as co-funded accommodation projects. 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. Students deserve better. They should be able to focus on their courses, without the unnecessary stress of navigating this worsening crisis.
“Sinn Féin in government would stand up for students and ensure that the housing crisis is tackled.”