Welfare Officer, Conor Clancy, in an interview with Trinity News, said that College has a responsibility to provide more accommodation for its students. Clancy also called for the government to recognise student accommodation as a social housing issue and for an end to housing discrimination against students.
Students across the country have struggled to secure accommodation for the academic year, as rent prices have risen and many landlords refuse to accept student tenants. The current crisis is the latest in what has become an annual trend.
According to Clancy, the Students’ Union’s Accommodation Advisory Service has witnessed a huge increase in the volume of calls, emails and in‐person visits this year compared to last. As of September 12, there were a total of 2,922 users of the service. In contrast, 2,005 users were recorded by 6 October 2014.
Clancy argued that the government needs to “start taking action” to address the problems in student accommodation. Currently, he said, “the majority of the legwork is being done by student unions around the country.” Clancy contended that student accommodation must be treated as a social housing matter, claiming that “it is important that people realize we are not just talking about students when we talk about student housing,” but also their families who support them and who must struggle with rising rent costs. “There is a perception out there that Trinity students can and should be able to afford housing,” he explained, adding that the reality is that within Trinity there are students of many backgrounds struggling to cope financially.
Traditionally most students have been confined to the more affordable levels of the housing market, resulting in overlaps between social and student housing. With a shortfall of 20,000 homes in social housing in Dublin outside of Trinity this year and student numbers and migration into Dublin growing, Clancy sees student specific accommodation as the best solution if the overlap in affordable housing is to be reduced.
In Clancy’s view, the onus lies largely with College to invest more in providing accommodation for its students. However, he expressed some skepticism as to the impact that College’s proposed conversion of Oisin House on Pearse Street into 300 new student rooms could have. Considering College’s aim to increase its international student numbers to 18% by 2019 and the fact that “it is a basic requirement of this strategy that these students have a place to stay,” he argued that Oisin House will be limited in its ability to alleviate the current problems. Despite this, he claimed that it is “encouraging that college are looking into projects like Oisin House,” which “will work in tandem with other measures to ensure Trinity students can find a place to stay at a decent price.”
In the long term, Clancy explained, his “overall goal is to empower students as tenants.” In making students aware of their rights and the standards they should expect, he hopes to “break the cycle of expectancy which sees students pushed towards low standard properties, poor value‐for‐money rents and issues around deposit retention.” Clancy also seeks to to challenge “the idea that students are unreliable, messy tenants” and to tackle discrimination against them in the housing market. He cited his passing of a motion calling for the Union of Students in Ireland to campaign against the use of phrases like “no students please” in property ads as recent progress in this regard.