Last week, Fianna Fail Senator Malcolm Byrne labelled the rising costs of student accommodation in Ireland as “outrageous”, particularly the accommodation provided by UCD. Byrne expressed his shock and disappointment during a Seanad debate regarding the Residential Tenancies Bill in which he campaigned for an enhanced supply of student housing. 

In 2020, college freshmen at UCD paid an average of €8183.58 in accommodation fees and those in second-year and above paid an additional €241.69 for student housing. Furthermore, last February the university shared its plan to increase the rent of on-campus accommodation by 12% over the next three years. This will result in students paying rent priced at the highest possible rate permitted by Irish Law. 

This announcement was met with a number of protests, with former president of the students union, Joanna Siewierska, expressing her frustration by stating that management “cannot use campus residences as a fundraiser”. The current SU president, Ruairí Power, made a statement recently claiming that UCD has “completely failed to build affordable accommodation on-campus” and is being “run as a business”.

‘UCD has “completely failed to build affordable accommodation on-campus” and is being “run as a business”.’ – Senator Byrne

Senator Byrne also explained that it is imperative that the government meets the accommodation requirements of the accelerating number of third-level students in Ireland. He praised the expansion of the higher and further education sector but said that to ensure success the government must create an affordable cost rental model, address the supply issue and create capacity for accommodation within the campuses at the new technological universities. Fine Gael Senator, Paddy Burke, explained that he shares Senator Byrne’s displeasure with the current accommodation prices and is in complete agreement with his proposals. 

On June 9th, Ministers Darragh O’Brien and Simon Harris announced new student rental protections. The Residential Tenancies (No.2) Bill 2021 specifies that any deposit will be limited to a total value that does not exceed the price of two months’ rent. Minister Harris mentioned that this measure will “help lower the financial barriers” for third-level students and that it is also one of a “series of initiatives” that the Government intends on taking in this area to improve the current situation. Although it is still uncertain whether on-campus accommodation fees will be reduced, Minister Harris’ comments suggest that positive change is on the horizon. 

Stephanie Toolis – Reporter