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Student Crisis in the Housing Market, Q2, 2018

As the never-ending saga of Ireland's housing woes continues for another year, thousands of school-leavers across the country are beginning the frantic search for a bed, the most basic necessity for studying. With many college operated residencies full to capacity long before CAO offers come online, students are often left scraping the bottom of the housing-barrel. At the beginning of August there were 1,400 properties available to rent in Dublin, but the majority of these are beyond the means of the typical student; students need appropriate and affordable accommodation. They will, instead, be forced to join the queues outside apartment buildings, competing with young professionals, families, and every other person vying to secure a roof over their head.

Average rental price - all time high

The congestion of the private rental market provides no relief to students with rents in Dublin now 34% higher than ever before. This follows six straight years of increases in the cost of renting in Dublin, the SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) assistance grant has remained stagnant since it was slashed by the Government in 2012. The dangerous combination of this has forced students to commute daily for up to three hours one way, and just last year 38 students were recorded as homeless resorting to sleeping on friends couches or in their cars, two even sleeping rough on the streets. The time has come for tangible and comprehensive action on this front, students and society cannot wait any longer for relief on the housing front to come.

There has been negligent inaction in alleviating the strains on the student housing market. The Government's strategy for student housing leaves a lot to be desired, relying solely on the private sector to bulk out the number of beds in purpose-built student accommodation. The reality is that these privately-owned developments are priced way beyond the means of the vast majority of students, with weekly rates in excess of €230. These uber-luxurious complexes are attractive not to the student from a middle-income family in Clare or Tipperary, but to international students. This may seem like it is freeing up beds in other more appropriately priced residencies, but in reality, these beds are becoming available in-line with the rise of these students in our universities and colleges. We've also witnessed our higher education institutions use the market rates of these for-profit providers as an excuse to hike the price of rooms in the accommodation they provide to similar levels, using income from accommodation to make-up for the severe underfunding of the education sector.

Dublin and National rents surging upwards

Students often lack the protections afforded by traditional tenancy rights, being seen not as tenants but as mere guests, with rent caps not applicable to student accommodation. The government has indicated there is more to come to tackle the incomprehensible rate hikes witnessed in student residences across the country, which have seen prices in some places jump 18% between the academic year 17/18 and 18/19. The guts of these proposals remain to be seen but for many students it is already too late, priced out of an education by the property market.

Digs are an immediate and needed addition to the amount of beds available to students, but they are not a long-term fix. The personal financial benefit to the homeowner offers an incentive to help desperate students out. Across the country, Students' Unions are already fielding calls from worried parents desperate to find a space for their child leaving the nest, and digs will provide a welcome alternative to these parents. Digs, however, are not an option for all students and more must be done for these.

Rent a room trends - Year on year

It is tragic that yet again we'll see students forced out of education due to the financial strain placed on them by the housing market, forced to delay their future due to Government inaction. There is no easy-fix to this crisis, but the time for action has already arrived.