3,000 students fight for accommodation in housing crisis march

Trinity students among 3,000 who took to the streets for the Raise the Roof march, with a rally at the Leinster House to follow

Trinity students are among those demanding affordable student accommodation today in the Raise the Roof march, which has attracted over a thousand students from across the country to Dublin.

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) are joining forces with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and other students’ unions to demand that the government take action against an escalating housing crisis which leaves students “priced out” of housing and education.

Equipped with banners, posters, and chants, Trinity students gathered in Front Square at 11am this morning before joining with students from across Ireland in the Garden of Remembrance. Students marched to Leinster House where “Raise The Roof” activists are rallying for the government to take immediate and effective steps towards solving the housing crisis.

Speaking to Trinity News, TCDSU President Shane De Rís explained that “students are suffering as a result of the crisis and we see it worsening each day”. De Rís cited long commuting distances, couch-surfing, and stays in emergency accommodation as several challenges students are facing in the current housing climate.

“Each day, we witness the violence of the homelessness crisis around our university as we pass those sleeping rough. This isn’t good enough, and we should expect better from our modern society,” De Rís continued. “We owe it to those students we sit in class with each day who are suffering to be [here].”

Activists outside Leinster House are supporting a motion on housing which Solidarity and People Before Profit are set to introduce in the Dáil later today. The motion is expected to call on the government to enact legislation that would make evicting tenants in the private sector into homelessness an illegal act. It also seeks lower rents, doubled capital expenditure on public housing, and the insertion of a right to housing into the constitution.

Speaking to Trinity News, USI President Síona Cahill stated: “The government needs to invest and act on this housing crisis, one that affects students, families and communities.”

Cahill outlined the difficulties faced by students as the housing crisis worsens: “lack of rent caps for purpose-built student accommodation is causing 27%+ increases in rent overnight in some places; there’s little deposit protection; there are increasing scams on international students; damp or overcrowded conditions; students paying night after night in hostels because there is a lack of rooms; couch-surfing or sleeping in their cars.”

The Raise the Roof campaign, launched by housing activists in September, involves students’ unions, trade unions, campaign groups, women’s groups, charities and political parties combining strengths in a collaborative call on the government to solve the housing crisis. De Rís and Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Oisín Vince Coulter attended last month’s launch, which saw energies reignited in the fight for affordable housing.

Accommodation has been at the forefront of students’ minds this year with protests occurring across the country. Dublin City University (DCU) students staged a series of direct actions, including a demonstration outside the Dáil in April, following a 27% rent increases at student accommodation complex Shanowen Square. National University of Ireland, Galway Students’ Union (NUIGSU) filed a case earlier this year against student accommodation provider Cúirt na Coiribe through the Residential Tenancies Board following 18% rent increases.

In September, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted that there is no “quick fix” to the housing crisis, while Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government Eoghan Murphy cautioned local authorities that he may use “emergency powers” to bring their functions into the remit of his own department if they did not follow his instructions.

Ireland’s official homeless count is currently estimated at around 10,000, with many activists including Father Peter McVerry, founder of the Peter McVerry Trust, asserting that the actual rate is much higher as the official count does not include people sleeping on the streets, in cars, tents, or on couches.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.