From bad to worse: The student accommodation crisis

By Aindriú de Buitléir

Every September students throw themselves back into another year of study and stress, particularly as demand for accommodation is high, while supply is at a record low. Students will increasingly have to choose their college preference not solely based on CAO offers but on the availability and affordability of accommodation.  Many students are forced to work two jobs and take out loans to pay their fees and rent. The average rent in Cork, Limerick and Galway City is €427 for a single room, and €700 per month in Dublin.

Private student accommodation

Given the unaffordable rates of Purpose Built Student Accomodation (PBSA), students often fall prey to traditional exploitative landlords in the private rental sector. PBSA also happens to be one of the most profitable forms of tenure: 80% of those surveyed in student accommodation in Dublin city were international students from wealthy backgrounds. The decision to build transient tourist accommodation and 3,752 proposed student beds in the Liberties will not address the impending crisis coming this August. All students, many of whom are also young workers, need to collectively organise. We need to revive a vibrant student movement and inject radical politics into our student unions. They can and should take the lead on fighting against sky-rocketing rents and demanding the introduction of real rent controls that cut across the profiteering of landlords. Students should not have to be reliant on these landlords to provide them with accommodation.  Student Unions should demand that the state build on-campus accommodation to be rented out to students at affordable levels while they are studying.

Mobilising on the streets

In October of last year, USI played a key role in mobilising 10,000 on to the streets, successfully putting pressure on the government to include student accommodation under RPZs and enabling students in PBSA to take disputes to the RTB. But that’s not enough! They must now mobilise to demand an end to the housing crisis. They must fight for policies that are based on the needs of students and young workers, not those of the capitalist market.