TCDSU calls for student participation in direct action protest against College rent increase 

The union has called for students to protest on campus on Wednesday, September 13 

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has called on students to take part in direct action on Wednesday, September 13 in protest against rise in accommodation fees.

The union has condemned College’s decision to increase accommodation by 2%, which is the maximum permitted under Rent Pressure Zone legislation.

In a statement to Trinity News, the union said: “According to their 2022 financial report, Trinity has made €10.5 million from on-campus accommodation, yet student services continue to remain underfunded, there are no period products readily available, and the high student-staff ratio means the quality of our education is negatively impacted.”

The union plans to circulate a form to students who wish to participate, after which more details of the action will be shared, asking students to volunteer if they believe “the rent is too damn high”.

TCDSU President, László Molnárfi told Trinity News: “TCD is contributing to the worsening of the housing crisis as they are following a for-profit model.”

“This affects all of College; the 2% increase will place additional strain on students already facing financial challenges.”

“We extend our solidarity to staff who are in precarious employment, we will not stand for this blatant disregard for our community values.”

The union’s Welfare and Equality Officer, Aoife Bennet added: “As a casework officer, I have seen the distress that the housing crisis has caused students. Instead of alleviating student’s distress, College is directly contributing to it by raising the rent.”

She continued: “The housing crisis is creating a two-tiered college experience, we have students dropping out of College, couch surfing, sleeping in cars and commuting for hours to get to campus.”

She highlighted that “Trinity needs to support its students rather than exploiting them” and  “the mental distress this is causing students who already have to deal with the cost of living crisis is deeply unjust”.

“Students should be worrying about their education, not whether or not they need to take up a second job in order to afford a place to live while studying full time,” she said.

College has defended the increase, saying that recent levels of inflation have necessitated “modest” hikes, highlighting a 15.7% rise in the cost of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels nationally in the 12 months to June 2023.

Before term began, TCDSU collaborated with University College Dublin Students Union (UCDSU) on a joint digs campaign to address the “severity of the housing crisis”. Members of both unions campaigned in Dublin city centre, encouraging people walking by to consider renting a room in their homes to a student this academic year.

Properties in areas close to the universities or with public transport links to the universities also received leaflets from the unions encouraging them to rent out a room.

Speaking to Trinity News on the campaign: “We are doing this not because we want to, but because we have to – we don’t think digs are the ideal accommodation, but it is sometimes the only option left for students.”

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) also released a review saying that student accommodation issues are “critically and negatively affecting the student experience”.

In the submission, USI layed out a number of issues and recommendations regarding student accommodation. They highlighted the lack of rights for students in digs or ‘rent-a-room’ schemes as a major issue. The union called for the introduction of set standards for digs, including minimum room size and notice periods, kitchen and bathroom access, the right to privacy, and the ability to lock bedroom doors.

USI also recommended that the government attach a “strict definition” of affordability as a condition when providing funding for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to build accommodation.

Other recommendations in the submission include the implementation of a rent freeze until inflation stabilises and the holding of a referendum to establish the constitutional right to housing.

Additional reporting by David Wolfe.

Charlotte Kent

Charlotte Kent is the Co-News Editor at Trinity News and a Senior Freshman PPES Student.