Lack of affordable bed spaces in the capital for young people attending colleges

Marcus O'Halloran, Economist

18th Aug 2015

Marcus O'Halloran - UCD Students' Union President, commenting on the latest Daft research on the Irish property market

As President of UCD Students' Union, I'm very much aware of notions that issues affecting UCD students only affect people from Dublin 4. As a native of Cloneen, Co. Tipperary, I would be very vocal in reminding everyone that the accommodation crisis in the student market is affecting people from all over. The repercussions from this for students stretch the breadth of this country. Lack of affordable bed spaces in the capital for young people attending colleges impacts hardest on those based outside Dublin. They're generally not too familiar with the city market and if they're unsuccessful in finding somewhere to stay, they've a long & pricey commute ahead of them.


Areas traditionally rented by UCD students - Ranelagh, Rathgar, Rathmines, Clonskeagh, Booterstown & Stillorgan- have seen the sharpest rises in the Irish rental market over the last 5 years. Demand is so high for a place in these areas that prices have increased nearly 25% over the last few years. Rates are rising further right now as 1,000s of secondary school graduates look to fly the coup for 2015/16. A cursory glance at the available data shows the difficulty awaiting them as newcomers to a small and very competitive rental sector.

Furthermore, while rental sector rates have generally decreased in the regional areas of Ireland, Cork and Galway have experienced increases comparable to rate rises in Dublin. So young people in 3rd-level education across the country are being hurt by an overcrowded rental market in our urban centres. It's not just a question of them being out priced- even if rent is tied to inflation or capped by Government, the underlying housing shortage means inevitably high demand for housing will crowd out students anyway.

Presently 700,000 Irish people live in leased houses and apartments. That number is increasing every day. Almost 10,000 tenants join the rental sector every month. Many of these people would prefer to own their home but they can't get a mortgage. However, they're still in a more stable position than most Irish students- even those with good references & part time jobs- and because of that they win out with landlords and will continue to win out even if rental prices are fixed.

Commuter Counties & Rents Rise asset

The Construction Industry Federation of Ireland advocates lowering the cost of building as a solution to shortages of supply in urban centres. This might reduce property prices, facilitate more people buying and free up the rental market- in the long term. I don't know if this is the viable, sustainable route or whether policy makers should look to economic development outside of our main cities, where housing is more widely affordable. But I do know that none of the talking points on future action are staked in our corner of the market or the student specific crisis.

I have publicly called for student input into rental package agreements being discussed at a Cabinet level and am working on promoting rent-a-room schemes. Given the current situation, I am convinced that the greatest potential for alleviating the pressure on parents & young people looking for college accommodation is in rent-a-room schemes or "digs". Homeowners who rent out empty bed spaces in their primary residence can earn up to €12,000 of rental income without paying tax on it. I would definitely back developing this existing tax relief to encourage more homeowners to enter the market and provide rooms for students.


Official figures from the Higher Education Authority project a student accommodation shortage for the next 10 years. University provided on-campus accommodation is severely limited and increasingly expensive- UCD have hiked prices by almost 30% over a 2 year period for bed spaces catering to 10% of the overall student population.

With Government ministers reportedly unconvinced that tax incentives for purpose-built student accommodation are the way forward, there needs to be an onus on action. It is my belief that there should be a concerted, national effort to promote rent-a-room schemes. Tax relief on rental income from digs should be increased, efforts should be made to ensure struggling homeowners are informed of the cashflow gains to be made & data should be collected so average asking price comparisons between digs and the private market can be drawn.

All the available data for housing in Ireland is pointing to a crisis caused by a cramped, overcrowded rental sector. Many young people still celebrating their Leaving Cert results today will defer courses because of it. Perhaps the worst is that Irish politicians seem oblivious to them. They will remain so at their own peril following the political mobilization for marriage equality & the number of young people now registered to vote.

Map of Ireland rents