Student Crisis in the Housing Market

Katie Ascough, UCD Student Union President Kevin Keane, TCD Student Union President

22nd Aug 2017

Katie Ascough UCD Student Union President & Kevin Keane TCD Student Union President, commenting on the latest research on the Irish property market

Right now, the Leaving Cert class of 2017 are poised to join the chronically undersupplied Irish housing market. Following CAO offers for college and university, the lion's share of that group will be seeking accommodation in one of the worst pressure points of the current market before the start of September. A cursory glance at the available data shows the challenge awaiting them.There are now fewer than 3,000 properties to rent nationwide.This is the lowest figure on record for the country. In Dublin there were just 1,121 properties available to rent on August 1st. That's over 20% less than were available on the same date in 2016.

Graphic showing most & least expensive places to rent

The most important knock-on effect from this undersupply is, of course, a rise in cost. Rents are now 13% higher than their 2008 peak. In Dublin, where the lion's share of new third level students will be looking, rents are now 18% higher than their previous peak. The average property in the capital now costs €1,741 a month to rent. That's one and a half times the current average rent nationwide, €1,159. This isn't a happy picture for anyone in the rental market. But the class of 2017 are largely low-income newcomers in the most competitive areas of the housing market. The majority can only afford to let for 9 months instead of the standard 12 and don't have stable earnings or prior references. In the private rental sector right now, it's unlikely they'll get a viewing, let alone a lease. The situation is so bad that if it's to be even partially resolved before September, it requires major collective action from a range of stakeholders. As an example of what that kind of initiative could look like, Students' Unions from Trinity College Dublin & University College Dublin have started working together with to put more affordable, student specific beds on the market.

Graphic showing percentage increases in rent

We've collaborated with homeowners and students to promote the Irish rent-a-room scheme more commonly known as "digs". Under the existing legislation, Irish homeowners can earn up to a yearly sum of €14,000 in non-taxable income from their spare rooms. But take up remains low because of negative stereotypes on both sides and a complete lack of profile. So, for the last few weeks, UCDSU and TCDSU have canvassed local homeowners and students of their respective institutions for positive testimonials of living in digs. If this scheme doesn't see a rise in take-up despite these efforts, many young people relieved after their Leaving Cert results are going to have their spirits crushed. While available campus accommodation is generally allocated to incoming first years, it's not adequate to house them all. Countrywide funding cuts to colleges and universities have slowed down badly needed development of their student residences and will continue to hinder it until they are reversed.

Room rental pricing trends

Even the recent increase in purpose built student accommodation by private developers won't alleviate pressure for the majority - as, on average in Dublin, students are spending €1,500 more in this type of housing than the average spend for what's available in the general market. In this context, college authorities, students unions and Government need to promote college digs as a priority over the next few weeks to make sure Irish homeowners are informed of how they can contribute to solving this crisis and the cash flow gains to be made. Otherwise many young people coming from outside urban areas - who don't live near a university and can't shoulder the costs of a long, pricey commute - will have to defer their college courses this September.