On the 3rd of October, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) joined with Trade Unions, housing and homelessness charities and civil society, grouped outside Government Buildings to highlight the impact of the accommodation crisis on students and warned that concerted and urgent effort is needed by the government to counter the rising rental prices which are pricing students out of the private rental sector across Ireland.
The current situation is having a disastrous effect on students in Ireland as it is becoming the norm for students to be charged €1,000 per month for a single room, sometimes shared. Students in Ireland are also paying fees of €3,000 per year to attend college, this is the second highest fee in Europe.
The Irish Government launched a student accommodation strategy in July 2017, when there was an excess demand in purpose-built student accommodation of over 23,000 beds. This is expected to increase to almost 26,000 by 2019. In Ireland, there has been a 2% increase in student numbers every year for the past decade and this is expected to continue for the next decade. The Irish Government have not built enough student accommodation to cover this increase, never mind the addressing shortage that currently exists.
Speaking in advance of the march and rally, USI President Síona Cahill said:
“On the night of the census in 2016, there were 429 students homeless in Ireland – making up 8% of the total homeless numbers. There are students effectively being locked out of college because they cannot find or afford suitable accommodation while they study – it’s not good enough, and it’s affecting access to education”
“We will not accept that homelessness is ‘normal’ in Irish society with communities and families continuing to suffer. There has been a failure of essential planning by Government in tangibly addressing shortages in provisions for homeless people, and slow progress in the development of much needed social housing.”
USI called on all political parties to support a cross-party motion which was being debated on the day of the protest, which called for immediate action on rent hikes and to make a significant investment in affordable purpose-built student accommodation. This motion passed, despite Government objection by 83 votes to 43 votes.
USI has continued to express anger and frustration by the lack of investment and regulation for student accommodation.