College employs private company to assist homeless students

James Prendergast looks at the SU’s response to Dublin’s growing accommodation crisis


A flyer drop to 20,000 homes on the outskirts of Dublin by the Students’ Union’s Accommodation Advisory Service appealing for digs has so far resulted in only 200 additional beds being made available, as the union expands the service, hires an external company and an additional staff member in response to the growing accommodation crisis, Trinity News has learned.

Speaking to Trinity News, SU welfare officer Ian Mooney said that 1,592 students have contacted the service since 5 August, compared with only 890 in the same period last year.

He said, “The service is open every year but we needed extra resources pumped into it this year to deal with the increased demand. We talked to the head of the Accommodation Office in Trinity and he managed to obtain extra funding from the College to bring in an external company, College Living, to assist us, particularly with international students. They brought along expertise, but more importantly they brought along beds too.”

In a statement to Trinity News, College said, “The advantages of having College Living involved are that they directly operate some student accommodation, they have significant linkages to landlords and other agencies in the private market and they are fully licensed by the Property Services Regulatory Authority.”

Ian Mooney said that College had so far committed to paying €500 of the cost of the flyer campaign and that he is awaiting news as to whether they will cover the balance. College was unable to provide specifics about the level of extra funding provided to hire CollegeLiving and the extra staff member.

AAS co-ordinator, and former SU Welfare Officer Orlaith Foley, told the Irish Times on 11 September that students should expect to pay €450 to€650 for rent in Dublin, though she said very few students have found accommodation for only €450. She advised landlords to charge €80 to €120 per week for digs, or up to €140 if meals are provided.

A recent Bank of Ireland survey found that the average cost of sending a student to third-level institutions in Ireland was €13,000 per year, while the average grant is only €3,025, falling from €3,250 in 2010-2011. These grants will not be available until mid-October and Greg O’Donoghue, Vice-President for Welfare of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), said that students may have to rely on interest-free loans from banks.

TCD Finance, the loan scheme operated by Bank of Ireland to help students pay the Student Contribution, has an APR of 7.5%, compared with a rate of 8.73% at AIB. Some credit unions offer loans at much lower rates but often require significant savings to have been accrued beforehand.

Accommodation rates on campus are rising 4% this year, compared to 13 % at UCD, 9% at Griffith College and 3 % at DCU. In the past year, rents in the capital have risen by 15%, and by 17.2% in the city centre. The number of properties on the market in Dublin in August 2014 was 40% lower than a year earlier.

Ian Mooney told Trinity News that, along with Orlaith Foley and SU president Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne, he has been doing “many interviews with various national media newspapers, T.V. stations and radio stations highlighting the importance of finding a longer-term solution to the current accommodation situation in Dublin, as well as informing students across the country of the services available to advise them in finding accommodation.”

In an article on the property website last month, McGlacken-Byrne called for “stimulatory reform of the building regulatory environment” and criticised the government’s Construction Strategy 2020 report for mentioning the word ‘student’ just once.