Students have, for the second week in a row, held a protest in front square against proposed rent hikes to Trinity’s on-campus accommodation. The proposed hikes would see accommodation costs increased by 4% next September.
The protesters, who were led by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), met on the steps of the dinning hall shortly after 1pm and proceeded to march towards front arch where they blocked off the main entrance into Trinity.
The students shouted chants of “Raise the roof, not the rent”, and “Cut the rent, freeze the rent”, and a banner was dropped from Regent House, facing onto College Green.
Speaking to the protestors, a representative from USI said that “Trinity is treating student housing like a commodity instead of a public good”, while another student pointed out how student accomodation was an accessibility and class issue, with students with disabilities being “held hostage” by on campus accommodation prices. Students also spoke on the hardships faced by student commuters and lower income families, announcing it was important to “find the source” and that “the source is Trinity”.
Speaking to Trinity News, TCDSU President Laura Beston stated that students would “continue to create disruption on campus to increase awareness of the situation and to ensure the college knows that students will not accept a rent increase”.
Today’s protest, and a similar protest held last week, follow an agenda item for College’s finance committee which proposes that the committee consider a rent increase of 4% to all College-operated accommodation, the maximum increase allowed under current rent cap legislation.
Beston continued: “Far too many of our students are forced into precarious situations because of the Dublin rental market and the rising cost of on campus accommodation. SUSI hasn’t been adjusted to meet the rising cost of living and the austerity cutbacks have not been reversed. Students are paying vast amounts of their wages on rent, as are their parents.”
Beston also urged students, once again, to sign a petition that was launched last week calling for a rent freeze. The petition currently has over 200 signatures.
In 2019, College imposed rent increases across its accommodation outlets which saw the cost of rooms in Front Square, New Square and Botany Bay exceed €8,000 for the first time. In Trinity Hall, the cost of a twin room rose by 6% to €5,914 while the cost of a single room increased by 4.3% to €7,247.
In September, rent strikes appeared to be on the horizon as Trinity students established a campaign group known as Cut the Rent which sought to target the high cost of student accommodation by petitioning students to withhold rent installments due on January 1.
In November, the Cut the Rent campaign placed a mock eviction notice outside Provost Patrick Prendergast’s house in a protest against ongoing rent increases in student accommodation. The poster, which gave the Provost an ultimatum to either resign from his position or implement reductions in rent worth €13 million, was swiftly removed by College security.
The group, which received the backing of TCDSU Council in November after a motion of support was initially rejected, later decided against staging a rent strike in January, citing concerns of low participation and exam pressure as barriers to the strike.
Last year, legislation imposing a 4% cap on rent increases on accommodation in designated zones was extended to include purpose-built student accommodation. Beyond Trinity, several universities have indicated plans to increase rent by the maximum 4% for the next academic year, including University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin City University (DCU).