Union takes formal stance in favour of rent decrease in Trinity accommodation

The housing crisis and pandemic are “severely impacting” students’ abilities to afford accommodation, Council heard

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has passed a motion mandating their support for a decrease in rents of College accommodation in the 2020/21 academic year, as well as subsequent years.

This motion means that TCDSU is now committed to lobbying the college to decrease all rental accommodation costs. They are mandated to lobby for affordable and accessible housing for all students, especially those with disabilities.

TCDSU highlighted the ongoing housing crisis and Covid-19 pandemic as major issues, saying they have “severely impacted students’ ability to afford adequate student accommodation”.

The motion was proposed by TCDSU Officer for Students with Disabilities Niamh Herbert (Ní Hoireabhaird) and seconded by the JS Class Representative for PPES Morgan Hildula. 

Speaking at Council tonight, Herbert (Ní Hoireabhaird), who is also the Disabilities Officer for the Trinity Renters’ Union (TCDRU), stated that she was “resolved to write this motion” after the first TCDRU meeting because “there needs to be a decisive action on this issue now”.

Emphasising this point, Morgan Hildula JF PPES, who seconded the motion, said that “SU has not given enough resources to combatting this issue”. 

Junior Fresh PPES class representative László Molnárfi highlighted that international students who are “already paying very high fees” are “practically forced into college accommodation due to not knowing the market”.

A Senior Fresh class representative spoke next supporting the motion, stating that “Trinity was the only university in the country not to lower their rent costs” and “due to the increase in the academic term, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the rent costs overall increased”.

TCDSU President Eoin Hand proposed an amendment to the motion to clarify that the cost of accommodation rose because of the extension of term, which was accepted by the proposer. 

O’Connor posed the question the Officer for Students with Disabilif the union should have a separate motion on lobbying College to subsidise rent for students with disabilities. O’Connor later said that this wasn’t to separate different cohorts of students, but rather acknowledge the other motions already in place mandating the union to campaign for rent reductions.  

Herbert (Ní Hoireabhaird) answered this by stating that “rent and accommodation issues affect all students” and therefore students should not be “segregated” with this issue.

Speaking to Trinity News today about the motion, Ní Hoireabhaird said that she had been “seeking a way in which to lift some of the financial burden of expensive rents off the shoulders of students with disabilities”.

She highlighted her concern over the “extortionate rents” that students with disabilities face in order to live in accessible on-campus accommodation. 

“Living with any kind of disability incurs so many extra costs for medications, doctors visits, assistive technologies, etc, and the need to live in accessible accommodation is just another of these extra costs.”

She continued saying that she hopes this motion “will be the first step in the direction of securing rent reductions for all students”.

Trinity News also spoke to the seconder of the motion, JS PPES Class Rep Morgan Hildua. She highlighted housing as “one of the key issues affecting students, especially right now during the pandemic”. 

“The extortionately high rental costs are an extreme barrier to accessibility in education.” 

She continued to say “the SU has passed multiple motions in the past on housing and rent prices, but we’ve not see any tangible change”.

“This is a problem that needs close attention, and we want this motion to reinforce the SU’s focus on working with the college and new Provost on bringing down accommodation prices.”

TCDSU has supported past motions to cut rent prices including mandating their support for the Cut the Rent campaign in November 2019.

Last month, College confirmed that students who choose to vacate their accommodation early before March would only be charged for the time they spent in their residence instead of the entire semester.

Among other motions passed this evening was a vote to establish a new Therapies Programme Convener.

In the past, all student issues coming from therapies-related programmes were directed to the School of Medicine convener.

As proposed by Health Sciences Convener Joseph Noctor, and seconded by Nursing and Midwifery Convener Shauna Sutton, Council noted that “the workload for the School of Medicine convener can be overwhelming”, so “not all concerns from the therapies program can be voiced”. 

The newly established Therapies Programme Convener is set to be elected at the Health Sciences Faculty Assembly. 

Additional reporting by Sarah Emerson, Connie Roughan, Jamie Cox, and Kate Glen. 

Audrey Brown

Audrey Brown is a Senior Fresher English Studies student, and the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News.

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.