Cut the Rent: The student activism Ireland needs

We need to stand behind emerging movements within our own community if we want to see change

As the housing crisis grows worse with each passing day, Ireland’s activist groups have been mobilising for change. A grassroots organisation has sprang up in Trinity this week to “revive the spirit of Take Back Trinity”, protest rising accommodation costs and organise rent strikes. We, the student body, should thrust our full support behind any organisations that seek to protest government inaction in combating the housing crisis.

Cut the Rent TCD launched on Thursday, September 26, outlining their goal to “work as a united front of tenants, activist groups, political parties and other sympathetic organisations” through their Facebook announcement post. They express the need to “popularise the idea of [rent] striking and build alliances with others, on and off campus”. The campaign also implores us to “recognise the special power that student renters have”. We’re highly concentrated and organised in our studies and in our housing, making planning and action far less difficult and less dangerous than it can be for individual tenants willing to take action. We are uniquely suited to embracing and successfully growing a grassroots movement like Cut the Rent, and we should not let our ability to do so go to waste.

While no doubt radical, Cut the Rent is also realistic in its plans. Organisers recognise that any rent strikes or large-scale demonstrations will not “happen overnight”, and that careful planning, networking and grassroots action will be required. While we’ve had a long history of protest here at Trinity, not all students are as impassioned as our engaged activists. Some students will take time to be convinced these actions and demonstrations are in their best interests. As Cut the Rent have so succinctly said: there are no shortcuts in building effective campaigns.

Cut the Rent TCD not only attacks wider government inaction on the housing crisis, but also hones in on Trinity administration. Trinity turned over a €10.9 million profit on housing in 2018 and still continued to drive up rent prices this year; a room in Goldsmith Hall costs almost €400 more than it did last year. College is not just inactive or ambivalent to the housing crisis, they are actively contributing to the rapidly inflating cost of rent in Dublin. Trinity’s administration is not alone either, and we need to embrace the activism of other student bodies and national student-run campaigns, such as USI’s Break the Barriers campaign, if we hope to succeed.

Student-led campaigns in other universities have successfully rallied against similarly exploitative administrations and Cut the Rent TCD hopes we can follow their example. University College of London, for example, capitulated to a five month coordinated campaign by students to withhold rent payments in 2017, granting students a £1.4 million pledge toward bursaries.

We at Trinity News have supported housing protests and student action to combat the housing crisis before and it’s imperative that we use our voices to highlight specific campaigns like Cut the Rent. We put our full support behind their message. Their first meeting will take place at 6pm on Tuesday, October 1 in Arts Block room 5033, and we’re compelled to reiterate their plea to students to “fight back now, or be walked over.”