Calling Uninest accommodations ‘luxurious’ is not helping the housing crisis

Living in premium student accommodation is not above the crisis, but more expensive than necessary for access to basic housing

Please stop calling Kavanagh court and similar housing options “luxury”. The term does not help yourself or the students who are struggling in the current housing crisis. I am a student in my second year of college who has lived in halls and now lives in Kavanagh, and I believe that the word luxury simply doesn’t apply, unless you want to provide them with free advertising.

Most of the items considered “luxury”, such as the couches or the showers, are labelled as such due to the fact that Kavanagh has been built recently, in the summer of 2017. The furniture and fixtures are still in pristine condition, veiling the accommodation block in a false sense of opulence. Many people will point out that there is a common room, ping pong tables and a gym, facilities that can also be found in Trinity Halls. Moreover, Trinity halls has sports facilities that Kavanagh does not, such as the basketball and squash courts.

The terrace in Kavanagh is admittedly quite nice, but is essentially a portion of roof you can walk, sit, and have a drink on, and should not be considered luxurious. Kavanagh definitely bares the price tag of luxury, but not its denotations.

What I have started to consider luxurious is a printing facility, or a washing machine that does not cost the equivalent of buying a lunch in the city centre. My so-called “luxury” student accommodation sits in the middle of a busy area particularly at night, to the point where women who live here are scared to come back home alone at night.  

I pay €1050 a month to live in Kavanagh. I could also pay half and commute for an hour each morning, but students who pay €500-700 a month to live in Ballymun are victims of the housing crises just as much as students who pay €1050 to live in Lower Gardiner Street. Seeing the former hold the latter in contempt just because they pay less is laughable, and will not help us solve the underlying problem. In addition to that, students living in Kavanagh are mostly internationals who could not find any better or cheaper options.

Amid all the confusion, Trinity is guilty of licensing its name to dorms built by private companies rented out at ludicrous prices. Binary Hub is an example, costing €1000 per month. The dorm is close to the Guinness brewery and is advertised on the Trinity website as being “a short walk away from campus”, whereas in reality, it’s more than 2km away.

“By branding Kavanagh as luxury, we are lowering our standards to a point where even the meanest of accommodations are not only deemed acceptable, but exceptional.”

There has been a tendency to blame the landlords, but that would ignore the real problem, albeit landlords are not free of blame. A friend of mine is living in a tiny room in a shared apartment, with little to no natural light, and another lives with a family without even a contract. He could be evicted with little to no notice. However, the real blame should go to whoever designed the Dublin infrastructure in past decades, as they have made sure that Dublin spread outwards and not upwards. By creating housing estates and apartments blocks in ghostly suburbs further and further away from the city centre, instead of following the example of cosmopolitan capital cities such as Paris or Milan, who champion apartment living and have built upwards, Dublin has shot itself in the foot. By branding Kavanagh as luxury, we are lowering our standards to a point where even the meanest of accommodations are not only deemed acceptable, but exceptional.

To this day, the tallest building in Dublin stands at only 67 metres. Policy needs to be enacted such that small, non-historical buildings can be redeveloped in taller, more spacious apartment buildings that can house more people in less city space. If such redevelopments were possible and profitable, Future decades could evidence that Dublin could finally catch up with what has become a momentous demand.

There is no possible division between right and left wing on this issue. The free-market is being hindered by regulation and, once freed, it will start supplying Dublin with the accommodation it so desperately needs, because it will be profitable to do so. For example parking space needs to be provided with every apartment built and in most of Dublin 13m height limits need to be respected for apartment buildings. As a byproduct of that, more people will be able to buy a house in Dublin, because the price will have hopefully gone down.

Currently, according to The Economist, houses in Dublin are 25% above optimal price. A comparison between Dublin and Edinburgh might help us understand that. Edinburgh is a 500 thousand person capital of a nation of around 5 million, with an important financial and brewing industry, so it can be fairly accurately compared to Dublin. The average Edinburgh house is  valued around €290 thousand, whereas the average value of houses sold in Dublin is approximately €375 thousand, making Dublin 30% more expensive than its “twin” city.

Something I have noticed as a student in Dublin is that when a situation is bad there is a tendency to justify it, using staple phrases such as “it’s always been like that” or “it’s grand”. It is too easy to convince ourselves that something unacceptable is normal, as justification is a defense mechanism and it avoids frustration.  Maybe it is more convenient to focus on the more imminent issues in life rather than worry about the broader problems, such as accommodation. But accommodation is an issue, and quite a universal issue at that, affecting us all in a litany of different ways.

“Indifference towards the housing crisis is the worst possible attitude, and whichever way you can get involved in fighting this crisis, get involved and start protesting”

The first step towards change is realising there is a problem, and many still have not acknowledged that there is a problem. I was at the march on October 3rd and the attendance from Trinity students was poor at best. Indifference towards the housing crisis is the worst possible attitude, and whichever way you can get involved in fighting this crisis, get involved and start protesting. Leave posters denouncing abandoned housing, inform yourself about marches and join the affirmative action. Let the police know if you have been unjustly evicted, and if you are a tenant, treat your flat the best way possible.

Right now the only hope is that the protest on the 3rd triggered something and got the ball rolling on a motion regarding the crisis in the Dàil, possibly with some attention being given to students. This might sound egoistical coming from a student, but we are what Ireland needs the most in the future. If you scare away students, you scare away future entrepreneurs and CEOs. These are the people who will not necessarily have the conviction to move abroad to study, but will ultimately do so if they cannot afford to live in Ireland’s capital city.