Student accommodation “not fit for purpose” as government announces new beds

The government has created 2,541 new student beds since July

The latest National Student Accommodation Strategy report finds 2,541 new student beds have been created since July, with more than 5,000 purpose-built student accommodation bed spaces completed this year.

Today, the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, and the Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English released the end Q3 2018 progress report on the National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS).

The report found that 5,531 bed spaces have been completed so far under the NSAS while a further 4,825 bed spaces are under construction. An additional 7,901 additional bed spaces have been granted planning permission, whilst 432 are at the planning permission stage. These projects produce a combined total of 18,729 bed spaces, according to the report.

However, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) emphasised that the quality of student housing is still lacking, commenting that purpose-built student accommodation is “ironically not fit for purpose”.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Housing this morning, USI Vice President for Campaigns Michelle Byrne stated: “When the Government’s student accommodation strategy was launched in July 2017, there was an excess demand in purpose built student accommodation of over 23,000 beds. This is expected to increase to almost 26,000 by 2019. This means we are still 16,000 beds short even if all PBSA which is projected is successfully completed.”

“The PBSA currently being built can include cinemas, bowling alleys and games rooms that are not a necessity for students to have in their homes when they are already facing high costs of education,” USI detailed in a statement. “Students in PBSA are treated as licensees, not tenants – so do not have same rights. This is detrimental.”

In October, the Raise the Roof rally for housing saw over 3,000 students from across the country take to the streets of Dublin in protest against the housing crisis and lack of affordable student accommodation.

Mitchell O’Connor expressed her delight at the report’s findings: “In light of the impact that the housing and accommodation shortages have had on both students and their parents, I am particularly delighted to report that we now have over 5,000 extra bed spaces for students since the launch of this strategy.”

A Dublin City Council report released earlier this year found that housing supply in Dublin was “inadequate and imbalanced”, prompting further investigation into the housing crisis.

The NSAS comes under the government’s “Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness”, which launched in July 2017.The plan includes key targets and actions to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of purpose-built student accommodation and an increase in take-up of digs accommodation.

Announcing the report, English stated that the government was “making excellent progress” in regards to housing. “Although student accommodation is not included in the official statistics for housing completions, every one of these beds brings relief to the housing market generally,” English continued.

Speaking after the report’s release, Mary Mitchell acknowledged the need for continued improvement of housing: “I remain committed to ensuring that the availability of accommodation is not a factor in a student’s choice of where to study. Since the end of July an additional 2,541 bed spaces have been made available for this academic year. Not only does this mean that over 5,000 students have now been accommodated safely, but that the strategy is working.”

The government hopes to meet the target of providing 7,000 bed spaces by the end of 2019 and a total of 21,000 additional PBSA beds by 2024.

Victoria Mitchell

Victoria Mitchell is a former Deputy News Editor for Trinity News.