Today, in an open letter addressed to Provost Linda Doyle, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) issued an ultimatum to College on the recent decision to raise accommodation fees by the maximum legal limit of 2%, demanding a two-year rent freeze.
Referencing the recent blockade of the Long Room and Book of Kells on 13 September, the Union said: “In March 2023, the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union wrote you an open letter asking for a series of demands to be met with regards to housing issues, and outlining the adverse effects of the housing crisis on students and staff.”
“You ignored our pleas, and rents were raised by the maximum legal limit in June 2023. In response, students launched a mass campaign of resistance in September 2023 asking for a 2-year rent freeze on all university-owned accommodation; a campaign that escalated to a day-long blockade of the Book of Kells.”
The letter continued: “We took this action as students struggling with the cost-of-living and housing crises. Many of us are couchsurfing, sleeping in cars or dropping out of education altogether, abandoning our dreams and passions because of factors outside our control.”
“Rents have increased by at least 25% since 2015, and can be as much as € 12,000 per year, a price 93% of students find unaffordable according to a recent survey. These increases are actively pricing students out of education.”
Reiterating the demand for a two-year rent freeze, the letter said: “Our demand is reasonable: a 2-year rent freeze for university-owned accommodation, which we consider the bare minimum.”
Suggesting that talks with College had been unsuccessful, the Union condemned College’s refusal to commit to a rent freeze in a meeting on 15 September, instead being told to follow the “appropriate financial process”, a process which the Union said was “dominated by College’s profit-maximising departments such as the Commercial Revenue Unit (CRU)”.
“When we play by the rules, we lose out, and when we do not, we are chastised for speaking up and taking collective action in defence of vulnerable students.”
The letter ended with an ultimatum, stating that if a public commitment by senior management to a two-year rent freeze is not made by 11 October, “we will be taking further disruptive action on campus”.
On 10 September, College defended the 2% rent increase, describing it as “modest”, with a College spokesperson telling Trinity News: “In light of persistently high inflation, modest increases in licences have been required to cover rising costs”.
This is despite the fact that College’s financial statements show it made €10.64m from College accommodation in 2022, and all College accommodation units exceed the average rent for a room in Dublin city centre of €802 per month.
TCDSU President László Molnárfi criticised College for following a for-profit model, and Welfare Officer Aoife Bennett accused College of “directly contributing” to stress felt by students as the result of the accommodation crisis.