Sinn Féin criticises universities for accommodation rent increases

Sinn Féin is calling on Irish universities to discuss proposed increases in rent

Eoin Ó Broin TD, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing has written to presidents  of several universities requesting a meeting regarding proposed rent increases to on-campus accommodation.

Ó Broin has requested meetings with the heads of University College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, the University of Limerick , Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork.

Trinity’s finance committee is due to consider a 4% increase to all College operated accommodation, which would be the maximum increase legally allowed.

In 2019, Sinn Féin and other opposition parties advocated for the inclusion of on-campus student accommodation or Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in amendments to the Residential Tenancies bill. The addition meant that students would not experience increases above 4% in on-campus accommodation.

Ó Broin acknowledged that while universities are adhering to the law by undertaking these practices, “they are not recognising the spirit of the law”.

The Sinn Féin representative noted that the rise in student accommodation continues to place a massive financial burden on lower and middle-income students and their families: “Most students cannot afford any more rental increases and should not be priced out of the University of their choice due to accommodation costs.”

Students have criticised Trinity for the costs of living in student accommodation while pointing out the College profits greatly from these activities. In 2018 alone Trinity earned an income of €13 million from student accommodation. Last year, it was reported that the College received €10.9 million in profit from student housing.

Speaking about what can be done to change this growing problem, Ó Broin suggests “a conversation about how on-campus student accommodation is financed and what can be done to lower the costs so that Universities can provide affordable, good quality accommodation.”

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) have spoken out against the inclusion of PBSA in the rent pressure zone legislation. They claimed that due to the student’s tenancy rights, universities would be restricted when dealing with alleged sexual assaults in campus accommodation.

Student unions have also been brought into the discussion, as Ó Broin is seeking to talk to them to understand their concerns about rent rises.

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have said they are dedicated to helping students so this increase does not burden them and that they will “fight this decision with all the resources we have”.

Shauna Bannon Ward

Shauna Barron Ward is a staff writer at Trinity News. She is a Junior Sophister Law student.