USI to stage sleep-out at Dáil to demand action on student housing crisis

The national union launches its “No Keys, No Degrees” campaign today

Today, the Union for Students in Ireland (USI) will stage a protest and sleep-out in front of the Dàil, demanding urgent government action on the student accommodation crisis.

The demonstration will begin at noon and student protestors will sleep out overnight, kicking off the USI’s “No Keys, No Degrees” campaign.

In a press release, the USI said the accommodation crisis “is leaving many students at risk of dropping out of college, deferring, or sleeping on friend’s couches”.

“Without a place to live, many students are being locked out of the third-level system and will not be able to get their degrees.”

USI president Clare Austick said: “We are outraged at the lack of action, or it seems even interest, from Government on the disaster that is the situation facing students looking for accommodation at the moment.

“The situation has been bad for several years, but after years of inaction from Government and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an absolute mess. 

“All students want is a decent, basic place to live so they can get their degrees and make a life for themselves. Today’s action is aimed at showing how angry we are and how desperate the situation is.” 

Last week, the USI called on Government to tackle the accommodation crisis, joining Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) and other campaign groups at the “Winter of Discontent” housing protest outside Leinster House.

On September 15, Austick said: “There are thousands of students across the island who cannot find accommodation. With waiting lists of up to 200 plus people, students are exploring the option of staying in B&Bs, hostels and hotels.” 

“We talk about the barriers blocking access to education, but many students now physically cannot access education because they don’t have a place to stay.”

The “No Keys, No Degrees” campaign demands “funding and a plan to develop more affordable purpose-built student accommodation”, “no new course places without living spaces being provided”, “legislation and other necessary action to retain student accommodation beds”, and “rent controls”.  

According to the Dublin Inquirer, student accommodation providers have been granted permission by Dublin City Council to convert up to 1,055 student beds into short-term lets for tourists or professionals. 

Accommodation providers cited lack of demand due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 as the basis for the conversion of student rooms. However, the first permissions were granted in January 2019, with more recent permissions lasting until May 2022. 

In Dublin, privately owned purpose-built student accommodation averages at €250 per week. 

Speaking to the Dublin Inquirer, USI vice president Caoimhe O’Carroll explained that the “luxury” student accommodation was outside the price range of most students. 

O’Carroll described the decision by Dublin City Council to allow the repurposing of student beds as “inexplicable”.

“It’s nonsensical, it’s ridiculous and it suggests there is no demand for student accommodation in Dublin when it is the absolute opposite.”

Sarah Emerson

Sarah Emerson is currently a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister English Literature and Jewish and Islamic Civilizations Student.