A €434 million fund was announced to fund the construction of more than 2,700 student accommodation units by Minister Simon Harris.

“Everyone in Ireland knows that there has been a real viability issue when it comes to the construction of college-owned student accommodation. and the government has made a number of steps to try and improve that scenario in recent months,” said Minister Harris.

“The facility we are putting in place today […] will provide Irish higher education institutions with a pot from which they can draw with €434 Million.”

Harris said that the government had changed the policy in place to allow government funding of University construction works last year to “bridge the viability gap”. He said the combination of both measures will allow colleges across the country to access to “loans which they can pay back over a longer period of time and which they will be able to pay at a lower interest rate than they had currently been able to experience.”

The funding, which Harris described as “another major step” has been secured by a partnership between the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Housing Finance Agency in conjunction with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation, Research and Skills. The funding arrangement involves a 40-year €200 million loan from the EIB, with investment from the HFS bringing the total to €434 million.

In addition to the housing units promised by the €434 million fund, the government has also recently announced that €61 million has been provided to partially fund the construction of 1,000 beds across four universities, with delivery beginning in 2024. University College Dublin has been in negotiations with the government for more than a year to receive a similar funding agreement.

“The next two big projects that have planning permission that I want to see progress are UCD and a project in Trinity.”

Since The College Tribune broke the story that Accommodation Stage 2 in UCD – a construction of more than 1,200 beds – had been paused due to inflated construction costs, UCD has been seeking a funding arrangement.

At the announcement press conference, The College Tribune asked Minister Harris whether the 434 million euro fund would ‘unlock’ UCD’s furloughed construction effort.

“I don’t want to speak for UCD because of their autonomy”, Minister Harris responded, “but I believe it can and will help every university which needs to borrow.”

“I also know when it comes to projects like UCD, that they believe to plug the viability gap will require a contribution from the government above and beyond this initiative.”

“I am working very closely with UCD and the President of UCD in relation to that. We’ve managed to get DCU, Maynooth, Limerick and Galway over the line since November. The next two big projects that have planning permission that I want to see progress are UCD and a project in Trinity.”

Hugh Dooley & Emma Hanrahan – Co-Editors