This year, the accommodation crisis reached an undeniable peak for students. “The race for student accommodation began earlier than ever this year, with reports from our landlords that accommodation was already booked out before the end of April”, explains Edward Thurman, cofounder of the popular accommodation website, CollegeCribs.ie. The price of accommodation also rose during this period: “The cost of student accommodation found on CollegeCribs.ie has increased from last year, with Dublin recording the largest average hike of 5.1%.” However, digs a situation which offers advantages for both homeowners and students has become a viable option for many. Following requests from student unions across the country, including the USI, many homeowners have made the choice to rent out spare rooms to students in need. Thurman notes: “The number of digs offered on CollegeCribs.ie has accounted for 53% of adverts over July and August this year.” As the idea of residing in digs slowly loses its formerly negative reputation, we spoke to two students who had experienced each side of the arrangement.
Patrick is a second year student who spent last year living in digs.
What led you to making the decision to stay in digs?
At first I intended to stay in Trinity Halls but when I wasn’t accepted for that. I turned to the accommodation office for advice and they informed me of a list of names of people advertising digs. I decided this to be the best option because I felt that by living with Dublin natives I could get to know the city, and I could guarantee that I’d be going home to a tidy, heated and well equipped house every evening.
Where were your digs located?
They were located in the Glasnevin / Drumcondra area, just 3.5 km from town. It’s a 40 minute walk and very accessible by bus and cycle lanes.
Was the house you resided in a family home? Did the homeowners have any pets?
Yes they have 4 children in their mid 20s to early 30s. Three of them are married or engaged. I got to know them all very well and the family were always very inclusive when people came to visit, as they would always introduce me to guests. One of their sons has a dog which comes to visit now and again and I even minded the dog on a few occasions!
Were meals provided daily? Did you eat with the family?
Not exactly, in general I had to make my own meals but I could use whatever resources were available in the house. In a way this was a good thing but I got used to cooking for myself. From time to time when visitors were over they would invite me to sit and eat with them and they would introduce me to their friends or family. Also, they would always ask me if there was anything I needed when they were going shopping.
Did you enjoy your stay in digs?
I enjoyed it very much. I met loads of new people and they were very kind to me. They trusted me and I felt I could trust them too. The facilities were excellent as I had TV, internet, washing, cooking, en suite and everything I could ever need. The family were more generous than I could ever have expected.
Charlotte is a third year student whose family have welcomed students into their home during her time in college.
How long have you been welcoming students into your home?
As a family we have been welcoming students into our home since the beginning of my first year at university, so just over two years now. We have had two students staying with us all together. Our first was a family friend and lived with us for the duration of the academic year. The second student to live with us came from France and stayed with us for a shorter period of six weeks.
Were there ever any issues with music or late comings and goings?
Luckily we never experienced any issues with our students as they were both very reliable people and kept in good communication with us both when staying in Dublin and when back at home. Loud music was never an issue either as they both tended to wear headphones thankfully!
Do you have siblings or pets? If so, how did they react to a stranger in the house?
I have an older and a younger sister and in terms of pets we have a dog and a cat. My sisters did not seem to have any issues with the students other than acting slightly reserved in the early weeks while getting to know them. Other than that they both got on really well with each student, especially the student who stayed with us for a year. Our cat was not at all phased by the newcomers, however it did take a while for our dog to warm to the student who stayed with us for a year!
Did the students eat meals with your family?
Yes, the students did eat meals with our family as this was part of what was agreed would be included in their monthly rent. Both students were welcome to help themselves to whatever they wanted and were welcome to join us at every meal. However, given their busy student lives they mainly joined us for the occasional evening meal.
Have you and your family had a good experience hosting students so far?
We have definitely had a good experience of hosting students in our home. Personally, on reflection, I realise that having them staying with us encouraged us all to behave better as a family! Another positive for us was learning more about another culture when we had the French student staying with us. The student who stayed with us for a year really did feel like another member of the family by the end of his stay.