I live on-campus and will do so for the next two years of my degree. I am a wheelchair user as a result of a progressive genetic condition I was diagnosed with when I was 13. As well as being a wheelchair user, I experience some chronic back pain and get very easily fatigued. Living in an accessible apartment on-campus has allowed me to thrive in college and live an independent life. However, it is fundamentally unfair that the limited accessible accommodation offered by College is among the most expensive apartments on-campus.
I have no other option but to pay over €8,200 a year in rent to live on campus if I want to continue my education. There is no other fully accessible accommodation I can live in that is in such close proximity to college. Other accommodation buildings that Trinity offers, such as Pearse Street or Goldsmith Hall – although still startlingly overpriced for student accommodation – are closer to €6,000 and €7,500. However, these are not suited to my needs or the needs of many other disabled students.
“I rely on the accessible accommodation on-campus where I live, and because of this, College has the power”.
I rely on the accessible accommodation on-campus where I live, and because of this, College has the power. Trinity could charge me any astronomical amount of rent per academic year and I would have to find a way to pay. The issue of not being able to afford it is not an option for me. Other types of student accommodation, digs, or staying with friends or relatives are not options for me or for my housemate.
My housemate, Sarah, just started in College this year. Sarah is severely visually impaired and has a guide dog to help her go about her day-to-day life. Sarah and I vent constantly about the price of living on campus and how there are simply just no other options for either of us to live in around Dublin.
My family is not a wealthy one, and while I am so aware that it is such a privilege to live on campus, it is also a necessity for me to live my life. I really don’t have any other option. There are no remotely affordable, fully wheelchair-accessible rentals in Dublin. Believe me, I’ve checked.
Similarly to my situation, there are no other rentals around Dublin that can accommodate Sarah and her guide dog. As lovely and intelligent as the dog is, I don’t think many landlords would be willing to accept him.
“Trinity has the opportunity to lower rents on this accessible accommodation and allow students with disabilities to live fulfilling lives whilst attending College.”
By locating accessible apartments among its most expensive accommodation, Trinity places students with disabilities in an impossible position which leaves us particularly exposed to the accommodation crisis given that our options are so few. As I mentioned above, rental options are so scarce for those with different access requirements. Trinity has the opportunity to lower rents on this accessible accommodation and allow students with disabilities to live fulfilling lives whilst attending College.
College needs to respond to the needs of students with disabilities. The Cut the Rent campaign calling for College to make several changes to accommodation and rent costs is a huge opportunity to help disabled students like myself and Sarah living on campus, and College needs to listen.
The inclusion of people with disabilities is important in every aspect of life and it should be given a more prominent role in the affordable housing movement because this is an issue that directly impacts us. When I first heard about the Cut the Rent campaign, I was excited to jump on the bandwagon and push for affordable rent for on-campus accommodation.
The Cut the Rent campaign was established earlier this term in the face of increasing rent prices for on-campus residents, and is calling upon on-campus residents to withhold their next rent payment which is due on January 1. The campaign aims to get the College to drastically reduce the rising rent prices to live on campus. This would be a dramatic change for all residents on campus, and for students with disabilities, it could offer at least some relief in the face of high rents and limited choice.
I recently sat down with Oscar Mateos, a member of the campaign, to discuss the aims of the campaign and the inclusion of students with disabilities living on campus, and making the campaign more inclusive. I spoke to the Cut the Rent campaigners about the possibility of seeking a subsidy for on-campus housing for those who get accommodations through College’s Disability Service, similar to the subsidy that the residents of the Sceim receive. I don’t know how likely this will turn out to be, but College must consider what it can do to help its students with disabilities living on campus.
“I can remember the buzz about Take Back Trinity in 2018 and I can also remember thinking that there truly is power in numbers.”
I can remember the buzz about Take Back Trinity in 2018 and I can also remember thinking that there truly is power in numbers. The campaign’s success gives me a lot of hope that Cut the Rent – and any future student-led campaigns – can succeed.
Cut the Rent is a campaign that every student should be behind. It goes without saying that the rent crisis is something that impacts the lives of the vast majority of students, and so I strongly urge anyone interested to join the campaign and fight for affordable rent.
More important, however, is that College listens to the demands of the movement. College can be quick to dismiss student activism as a thorn in its side. But on housing, it must be wise to the fact that students with disabilities have urgent needs which it must address. It is deeply unjust that students with disabilities face high rent rates which we are compelled to pay, given that we have so few options for accommodation, and a change by College is long overdue.
I am calling on the College to do more for its students amidst the rent crisis and to afford us subsidised rent, or, as Cut the Rent is proposing, a bursary which students with disabilities can avail of to help afford the extortionate price to live on campus.