Cut the Rent postpone rent strike to next year

Low participation and exam pressure brings a halt to movement’s momentum

Cut the Rent TCD have decided against staging a rent strike in January following concerns of low participation and exam pressure, turning its attention to potential action in the 2020/2021 academic year instead.

At a meeting this evening, the group, which was established in September, decided to delay a rent strike which was planned for January to coincide with the due date for the second installment of rent for on-campus residents.

Speaking to Trinity News, Cut the Rent member Michael Mac Grath explained the group decided it would be “unfair” to ask a small group of students to strike “without a sustained mass of students backing them up”. 

“At present, we have only a small number of students who are willing to go on strike and many of us are heading into our final year Christmas exams, and so cannot devote enough time to canvassing and bringing new people on board before the payment, which is due on the first of January,” Mac Grath said.

“We have been working within a tight timeframe between the first rent strike meeting and the Christmas break.”

Cut the Rent was set up in September with a view to fight the rising costs of student accommodation in Dublin. On its establishment, the group said it would stage “a series of smaller scale actions, protests, planning and grassroots organising”, while seeking to “popularise the idea of striking” among students, citing the high cost of rent for Trinity students living on-campus and in Trinity Hall (Halls).

Mac Grath outlined that the group would now focus its attention on building support for a rent strike in January 2021, explaining that a strike in September would be unlikely given the difficulties associated with organising during the summer while students await accommodation offers.

“We are proud of the movement we have built so far and have laid out plans to renew the focus of Cut the Rent in the New Year and engage a wider pool of students,” Mac Grath said.

Speaking to Trinity News, Xavier Bradley, another member of Cut the Rent, confirmed: “The decision comes from the fact that we believe it is unrealistic and unfair to student tenants to call for a strike without the unified support of at least one full house of organised tenants.”

The campaign intends to hold meetings, workshops and other actions next term to highlight the housing crisis, Bradley added, with a view to “escalate [their] efforts in the coming academic year”.

At the start of November, over 300 students living on campus had signed up to the group’s mailing list, which called for students to withhold their payment for the next installment of rent due in January. 

Cut the Rent received the backing of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Council last week, having unsuccessfully called for support at Council in October with a motion proposing that the union should “adopt a formal position against rental increases on campus. . . . This support should include promoting and actively participating in the campaign, and protecting student activists in the case of disciplinary action.” 

Several members of Council voiced concerns that a mandate to protect student activists in the case of disciplinary action put the union in a vulnerable position, leading the motion to fall.

The group brought a revised motion to the next meeting of Council on November 19, replacing the clause on protecting rent strikers to instead mandate the union to “adopt a formal, committed stance in support of the Cut the Rent movement” which would involve “active participation in the campaign and standing with [the group’s] members”. Council passed the motion, with speakers praising the group for the adaptation.

Cut the Rent received support from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) at its national council this month. Its actions also caught the attention of national media, receiving coverage from the Independent and Sunday Times.

Rates for Trinity’s on-campus accommodation and in Halls rose by up to 6% this year, with rooms in Front Square, New Square and Botany Bay seeing an increase of 5.6% increase to €8,226 for a year including utilities. 

In Halls, the cost of a twin room for the year rose by 6% to €5,914, while the cost of a single room went up by 4.3%, bringing the cost for the year over €7,000 for the first time to €7,247. 

The rent of a room in Goldsmith Hall rose by 5.8% to €7,572.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.