Student accommodation crisis: we need public homes now!

By Ollie Bell

It is no secret that Ireland is currently facing a housing crisis, but according to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the student accommodation crisis is worse than ever. With long waiting lists and high rents, students are now exploring the options of living in B&Bs, hostels and hotels. 

If public transport is an option then students are faced with traveling 3-5 hours to the university. This crisis means that many students are dropping out, deferring, or sleeping on friend’s sofas. This has left students feeling stressed, anxious and exhausted. Housing and high fees mean many working-class students are increasingly locked out of higher education.

Market policies have failed 

The USI held a protest outside the Dail on Thursday 23 September to launch its #NoKeysNoDegrees campaign, which highlights the growing anger students are feeling in relation to this crisis. USI and student representatives will sleep out overnight on Kildare Street in response to the political establishment ignoring calls to tackle this crisis. 

This issue was brought to the attention of the government numerous times over the past months but due to their inaction and the Covid-19 pandemic, it has grown more severe. This crisis didn’t happen overnight but rather this is a consequence of handing housing provision over to private developers. Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) was built, not according to what students wanted or needed, but to turn a profit. 

Students now face expensive rooms they cannot afford. These rooms are increasingly given permission by Dublin City Council to become short-term lets. Up to one-third of the accommodation built in the last five years was taken away from students to be used for tourists.  

PBSA has not solved the student housing crisis but instead, students are left to the mercy of the capitalist market where housing is for profit, not a basic, essential right.

What’s needed

Students don’t want luxury accommodation. What students need is public and affordable housing. But successive Governments’ failure on housing tells us we need more than policy change. We need a break from capitalism, where basic needs are commodified in the interest of profit, to a socialist alternative where all barriers to education are removed, providing students with living grants and quality accommodation. 

Social change comes from grassroots mass movements. Young working-class people were at the forefront of Repeal and Marriage Equality. Now workers, trade unions, and everyone affected by the housing crisis must stand in solidarity with students. This movement must demand public homes for all!