Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) have tonight established working groups to work towards opposing proposed rent increase of 4% to all College operated accommodation, due to be considered by Trinity’s finance committee.
At a townhall meeting held this evening provisional plans were also made for a first direct action to be held at some stage next week.
The proposed increase of 4% is the maximum rent increase allowed under rent increase caps and would be applied to all student and staff accommodation operated by Trinity.
TCDSU President Laura Beston, who chaired the townhall meeting tonight, said of the rent cap that Colleges were “using it as a target” and that a 4% increase each year would be “in no way sustainable”
The proposal also recommends a €10 per week premium to be charged for the new Printing House Square rooms, which are due to be completed in time for the start of the 2020/21 academic year.
The Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) Vice President for the Dublin Region, Craig McHugh, who was also in attendance, at the meeting stated that students should be lobbying for a “rent freeze”, while one of the students at the meeting said that this should be a “minimum demand” and student unions should be looking at campaigning for a reduction
Another student noted that student accommodation “should not be a for-profit enterprise” for Colleges.
The two working groups established are to focus on formulating demands to bring to the finance committee and planning direct action.
Possible direct actions that could be taken further into the campaign were discussed at the meeting, including forming a blockade to Trinity’s Book of Kells Exhibition and email campaigns.
Beston stressed the need for direct action, saying that the members of Trinity’s finance committee needed to feel like their decision will be “a tipping point”, that if they were to block rent strikes “everything will be fine”, but if they vote to increase rent “the situation will deteriorate”.
Last year, Ireland’s seven universities lobbied for college-owned student accommodations to be exempt from new legislation which extended rent caps to purpose-built student accommodation. The legislation, enacted last year, brought student accommodation under existing legislation which puts a 4% rent increase cap on accommodation in designated pressure zones.
This year, before the rent caps came into effect, College put up rent on accommodation by varying amounts for each complex. The steepest increase was for a twin room in Trinity Hall which increased by 6%.
Rooms in Front Square, New Square and Botany Bay saw a 5.6% increase, to €8,226 for a year. With the new 4% increase to be approved the rent of these rooms for a year would rise to €8,555.
The cost of College accommodation has been a contentious issue on campus this year with the Cut the Rent campaign group gaining the support of TCDSU and threatening rent strikes. The group eventually abandoned their plans to encourage students to withhold rent however, due to a lack of widespread support.
Also discussed at the meeting was the unions’ planned approach to lobbying for better PhD working conditions within College. It was agreed that TCDSU and Trinity’s Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) should lobby for casual teaching staff to receive contracts of employment from College.
A meeting with the Dean of Graduate Studies was also proposed and will be requested for the last week of February.
Tonight’s townhall meeting was held from 6pm in the Maxwell theatre in Trinity’s Hamilton building.