As part of their campaign for Homes-For-Study the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) recently wrote a submission to the Public Consultation outlining their strategy to combat the ongoing problems in the student private rental market. The USI have been a long advocate of affordable student accommodation in Ireland and with this submission, the union hopes that the strategy will provide a clear picture of the role that the rental sector will play in the short, medium and long term as set out in the government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy.
The submission aims to tackle the serious problems facing students in obtaining private rental accommodation especially in cities such Dublin and Cork. These problems include difficulty to find accommodation; high unaffordable rents; low quality accommodation; significant distances from college; vague deposit deductions without cost breakdowns; lack of written lease agreements and lack of regulations.
USI President Annie Hoey made clear in her statement this week that intervention by the government in the market was needed in order to protect the rights of students when it comes to affordable accommodation. “Policy-makers need to look at the needs of various groups of stakeholders and restore the sense of stability both in terms of affordability and availability of housing for all. Without adequate protection of the right to accommodation for students, we will sentence Ireland to socio-economic stagnation.”
The strategy for the Rented Sector will be built upon four pillars: security, supply, standard and service. In order to provide security within the market the union is calling for amendments to legislation to ensure that the right to adequate housing exists regardless of the status of the property you own. The union has also proposed changes to the Tenancies Act that will entail giving landlord status to the provider of digs and begin regulating the lease agreements between them and their tenants.
In order to combat the lack of supply in the housing market, the USI has proposed developing a coherent program of conditional supply-side supports to increase availability of affordable rental housing, e.g. tax reliefs for renovation of vacant homes in cities by owners.
The USI also welcomes the rent-a-room scheme, but believes that it may drive up rental prices, therefore USI suggests the introduction of brackets that will be aligned with the number of rooms that the landlord provides.
The USI proposes a nationwide intensive inspection program for private rental accommodation that will based off the 2008 Standards for Rented Houses Regulations in order to tackle the problem of low quality accommodation. They also hope to introduce more points of contact for free of charge dispute resolution for students along with a point of contact for USI’s officers to improve and facilitate the procedures.
To solve the problem of vague deposit deductions without cost breakdowns and lack of written lease agreements, the USI has offered a new Deposit Protection Scheme to protect students .The USI also hopes to introduce a nationwide training program with the usage of new technologies for new landlord and student accommodation officers.