Mould or homelessness? Horror stories of the Dublin housing crisis

Trinity News sits down with students who have endured terrible living conditions due to the Dublin housing crisis to get at the bottom of just how bad circumstances have become.

Some names have been changed for anonymity. 

Amidst the seemingly never-ending and ever-worsening housing crisis, thousands of students across the country live in terrible conditions they can barely afford. Following the protests on campus two weeks ago, Trinity News spoke to two Trinity students and TU Dublin Student Union (TUDSU) President Brian Jordan about their housing horror stories.

When Lisa moved to Dublin in September 2021 to start her degree in PPES at Trinity, she was unprepared for the massive difference between student housing in Ireland compared to her native USA. She stayed in private student accommodation for the first two years of her degree after failing to secure a place in Halls despite her international student status. This year, however, she is studying abroad for the second semester, leaving her at a significant disadvantage in the housing market. With most students signing rental contracts for the entire academic year, securing accommodation for just her first semester in Dublin proved an immense challenge.

As an officer in a Trinity society, on-campus accommodation seemed a viable option. However, her application for on-campus housing was rejected in June, leading to an “extremely stressful” summer of frantic online searching. Her parents even suggested she transfer from Trinity to a community college near her home so that she would have a place to stay. After applying to almost thirty apartments over two months, she finally found a two-room apartment for 1600 euros a month. Since moving in, her experience has been overshadowed by never-ending electrical issues and the exorbitant costs of her apartment complex’s laundry services. She explained her shock at the fact that Trinity “does nothing” to help, describing the housing experience at the Canadian university where she will be studying as “very different.” Within a few days of searching in Canada, she found a place to stay that is “much cheaper” than her Dublin flat and only a five-minute walk from campus. 

Lisa expressed her exasperation over the fact that “there are so many empty lots in the city, especially in town” that College and the government can build housing on and believes that the failure to do so is “actively driving away [their] own students.” While she initially thought she would stay in Dublin for a few years after graduating, the current “uninviting” environment has prompted her decision to leave. She is frustrated that the government “say[s] that this [the housing crisis] is a priority, but it doesn’t seem to be at all.” She feels “false promises” are being made as college administrations claim to care about student welfare but fail to meet their students’ basic needs. She wishes that Trinity would “actively do something – whether that’s developing a new property or having more partnerships with student accommodations.”

They later discovered that he had been covering up the mould that was growing in one of the rooms, a practice that was repeated every time he was asked to treat it”

Conor, a final-year Film and English student, has been left with health complications and respiratory illness after living in a mould-infested apartment for two years. After failing to secure a place in Halls in his first year, Conor moved into a property in Dublin 8. The viewing and lease signing took place on the same day, and when he and his housemates arrived, their landlord was covered in paint. They later discovered that he had been covering up the mould growing in one of the rooms, a practice repeated every time he was asked to treat it. Halfway into his second year, Conor started feeling “wheezy for no reason.” He had asthma as a child, which was worsened by living in damp, unsafe conditions. After months of tests and failed treatments, Conor finally found a drug that helped, although he still has to make monthly hospital visits for injections. He says that according to doctors, the mould in his former accommodation was likely the cause for the condition which has “derailed his life.” He will be receiving treatment “indefinitely.” At his worst, he “couldn’t do basic things like run or even laugh without getting out of breath.” He thinks that the fact that college students are being taken advantage of and subjected to such “disgusting” living conditions is “evil.” He also plans on leaving Dublin due to the cost of housing. 

TUDSU President Brian Jordan had lived for four months in what he described as “literal hell.” It all began when Brian was searching for accommodation at short notice. After sifting through thousands of lettings on–an Irish property search engine–he accepted a flat he had viewed despite the landlord seeming “very strange” as he simply “had no other choice.” 

Constant drinking, drugs left on kitchen tables and attempts to come into his room at night left Brian feeling paranoid and unsafe in his own home”

His landlord—who was also his housemate—would stare at him, making him feel extremely uneasy, and always seemed to be waiting for him to do something that he could then complain about. Constant drinking, drugs left on kitchen tables and attempts to come into his room at night left Brian feeling paranoid and unsafe in his own home. Then, after Brian had surgery for melanoma, the landlord accused him of faking his diagnosis, labelling him “selfish” for failing to take out the bins. Soon enough, Brian developed stress-related eczema, and his doctor advised him to change his living situation. 

After moving out, the landlord withheld Brian’s deposit until a replacement housemate was found, meaning that Brian wasn’t in a position to report him to as this might have prevented the landlord from finding a new tenant. Brian explained that the worst part of this experience was the feeling of “powerlessness” due to his lack of tenant’s rights. Brian said that as TUDSU President, he often feels like assisting students with accommodation is “his entire role.” He believes that one thing universities could do to help is “start sectioning off a certain amount of private accommodation” for their students. However, Brian—like most of the interviewees—feels that sometimes, these institutions are more concerned with making a profit than they are about their students.

These are just a few examples of the extreme circumstances students in Dublin face regarding housing. With the number of places available in Irish universities rising yearly and insufficient accommodation to house these growing student bodies, these horror stories will only become more and more common.