Fixing or Worsening the Student Housing Crisis?

By Injae Kang 

People block traffic by staging a sit down protest at Ireland’s housing crisis in a ‘Raise the Roof’ rally outside the Taoiseach’s office at Government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Finding an affordable room or accommodation in Dublin is an additional challenge for students living away from home. Third-level students in Dublin are facing difficulties with finding accommodation as excessive demand for living in Dublin City has led to a price spike.

In response to the shortage of student housing, the Irish government launched the National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS) in July 2017 which is designed to deliver Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). It is expected to reduce the demand for accommodation in the private rental sector by both domestic and international students. The government’s strategy aims to provide a supply of 28,806 bed spaces in the Dublin area and a total national supply of 54,654 bed spaces by 2024.

PBSA Bed Space Projection

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Source by the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Housing

Despite the government’s optimistic expectation of PBSAs being available to students in Ireland that would alleviate pressure on the private rental market, it has been criticised over both a lack of supply of PBSAs and the outrageous price.

While the NSAS aimed to deliver 25,346 PBSA bed spaces to the Dublin area in 2021, the rate of delivery of bed spaces is tapering off. The Covid-19 pandemic created unexpected variables that caused third-level institutions and university campuses to remain closed and resulted in low occupancy rates in PBSAs in the 2020/21 academic year.  

1,450 PBSA beds were delivered to the Dublin area in 2020 and 1,350 new beds have been delivered as of 2021, bringing the total number of beds to 18,900 in 2022. Furthermore, a total number of 19,300 beds are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023, according to a report from Cushman & Wakefield.

The purpose of PBSA beds is to provide a solution to the shortage of student housing that offers some practical features, such as being located near the college and offering an affordable price. However, the PBSAs operate under private ownership, instead of universities. This means that they normally come with an extortionate price tag since luxury social areas such as cinemas, music rooms, and bowling alleys are included in the price.

Prices for the rooms range from €250 to €300 a week. Paying over €1,000 per month for a single room with a shared kitchen is exorbitant for students.

Caoimhe O’Carroll, a vice president for the Dublin Region in the Union of Students in Ireland said that: “Delivering affordable and fit-for-purpose PBSA will go a long way in alleviating the student accommodation crisis. However, the NSAS was launched in 2017 and since then hasn’t made a dent in the demand for student beds in Ireland.”

“PBSA is often beyond student price points and puts a high burden of financial pressure on students and or their parents. It is shocking that PBSA rent is not capped at an affordable cost for students.”

“Luxury PBSA that is outside students’ price points do not meet the demand in the market. Most Dublin PBSA complexes have cinema rooms, in-house gyms etc. These in-house amenities are an unnecessary cost to developers – a cost which is invariably transferred to the pockets of students and reflected in exorbitant rent.”

In contrast with the realistic prices of student housing, some colleges in Dublin provide an ideal cost of living guideline for 2022/2023 to assist students in budgeting for college. According to the guidelines, monthly rent costs in the private rental market are €750  at Trinity College Dublin, €636 at Technological University Dublin, and €670 at Dublin City University. The average monthly rent cost for students living away from home is €685. 

Trinity College Dublin says the monthly rental cost in the private rental market is up to €750. However, Vera Yakupova (21) a student at Trinity College Dublin says that the price suggested by TCD is only for a limited number of students. “This might be true only for people who either live at Trinity Hall (On-Campus accommodation) or in a private shared living space. But most students that I know pay more than €600, sometimes even double that.”

“I searched for a room on Daft.ie for several months and was unable to find an affordable room. So I applied to Trinity Hall and got rejected. They said that there was only a very limited number of rooms available.”

“Also, once my friends from college were rejected, they moved several times until they found a place to live that they like and find affordable.”

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The number of international students in full-time Higher Education

Source by Higher Education Authority

Furthermore, it has also been criticised that there aren’t enough PBSAs in Dublin, despite the extortionate price of PBSA beds. The supply of PBSA beds does not meet the demand for student housing, as the number of international students has been increasing (except for the academic year 2020/2021) and international students are more likely to find private accommodation rather than rent in the private rental sector because of Covid-19.

The number of international students in full-time higher education in Ireland has risen from 25,861 in 2018/19 to 26,623 in 2019/20, which is the biggest number over 7 years.

The number of international students in Ireland in 2020/21 decreased by 13.7% compared to the previous academic year following the pandemic.

Due to the return of on-campus learning and the large portion of international students settling in Dublin for college, the shortages of PBSAs are expected to increase. As a result, some students in Dublin had to stay in hotels or hostels while they waited for their accommodation.

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