Students staged a protest in Front Square this afternoon decrying potential rent hikes to Trinity’s on-campus accommodation which would see accommodation costs increased by 4% from September, calling for College to instead implement a rent freeze.
Led by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), protestors blocked the Front Arch entryway, preventing access on both sides of the entrance.
A group of around 30 students gathered on the steps of the Dining Hall in the rain before marching to Front Arch with chants of “cut the rent, freeze the rent”, “student rights are human rights” and “Paddy, Paddy, Paddy, out out out”.
With students blocking access in and out of campus via Front Arch, members of College security stood at the gates to direct passers-by to the Nassau Street entrance. Security did not interfere with the protest.
Speaking to the protestors, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Vice President for the Dublin region Craig McHugh said: “Today, we stand resisting this on college campuses across the country. We need to demand a rent freeze. We can resist [rent hikes], and we can stop them.”
The Front Arch block continued for almost an hour, with chants of “can’t pay, won’t pay” and: “What do we want? Rent freeze! When do we want it? Now!”
Speaking to Trinity News, TCDSU President Laura Beston outlined that the union “completely opposes any rent increases that Trinity College Dublin attempt to bring to the table”.
“Today’s actions are merely a starting point and we hope that this action will encourage many more students to get on board,” Beston said. “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.”
The protest follows an agenda item for College’s finance committee proposing the committee considers a rent increase of 4% to all College-operated accommodation, the maximum amount allowed under the legislation.
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.
“We cannot speak of access to education and call ourselves champions in these areas when our actions and decisions are deliberately blocking students from accessing third level education,” Beston stated.
Alongside the protest, the union launched a petition from students calling directly on College to enact a rent freeze. The petition asks students to sign if they “think that paying over 8,500 euros for a nine month stay in a bog standard room is unacceptable and extortionate”.
Beston urged students to sign the petition, outlining that “the more numbers we have opposing the proposed rent increase, the less likely it is to happen”.
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).