HEA report warns of worsening student housing crisis

Estimate points to a consistent shortage of over 25,000 each year for the next ten years.

NEWSThe Higher Education Authority is set to project a “significant shortage” in third level student accommodation in Dublin and to a lesser extent in Galway, Cork and Limerick between 2014 and 2024 in a new analysis of projected student accommodation demand and supply commissioned by the minister for education and skills; Jan O’Sullivan.

The Irish Times reports that the document states that between 2014 and 2024 it is expected that demand for student accommodation will increase from 57,104 to 68,697. Future student accommodation developments are projected to accommodate the increasing numbers of students during the same period; from 31,296 to 43,496. The increase in student numbers is attributed to the increasing numbers of international students being accepted by the state’s seven universities with guaranteed on-campus accommodation.

This estimate points to  a consistent shortage of over 25,000 each year for the next ten years and is the best case scenario as the report reached these estimates by researching planned accommodation developments and therefore includes developments liable to be delayed or cancelled altogether between now and 2024.

The report points to circumstances in Dublin as especially grave as a result of greater private competition in the housing market and an acute shortage of on-campus housing.

Fianna Fail’s spokesman for Education, Deputy Charlie McConalogue, has criticised Minister O’Sullivan for a slow response. Deputy McConalogue has pointed out that he was assured in April that the HEA report would be published within weeks. Despite the fact that the report is yet to be published and Minister O’Sullivan has not yet received its final report, it is understood that the report’s recommendations and details have been communicated to officials.

Related: Soaring rent prices and travel expenses cause student living costs to rise

The Union of Students Ireland has begun lobbying the government as early as last year for a reintroduction of section 50 tax breaks for developers of student accommodation. The USI has also launched a new scheme aimed whereby families would receive a tax-free €12,000 “rent a room relief” grant for  in conjunction with a new online service designed to connect students seeking accommodation with families in possession of spare rooms. In the short-term the USI has recommended greater financial assistance to students commuting to college and rent controls such as a possible cap.

President of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy has recommended that a zero VAT scheme be introduced and is understood to have communicated this proposal to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on his recent visit to UCC campus.

The recommendations of the HEA report are not yet known but will include a recommendation to set up an interdepartmental working group between the Department for Education and skills and the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform to enact its proposals.