New college year, same accommodation crisis

by | Sep 19, 2023 | EDUCATION, Opinion

A photo of two people carrying boxes down the stairs.

Image: Aleksandar Nakic, Getty Images

College students searching for accommodation in Ireland last year were struck with the sheer lack of places or the sheer cost of renting in cities. Many had to choose between travelling for hours to and from campus or dropping out and looking for different options closer to them. Others are staying in overpriced cramped apartments or even hotels if they can not afford another option. International students were struck by how expensive living in Irish cities was with many being and left homeless in a country foreign to them.

 

All of these problems were seen across almost every college campus, and the exact same problems are just as big of an issue, if not worse, for students searching for a place to stay this academic year.

 

Some can get lucky and find a shared room for as little as €400 per month. Others will be unlucky and pay in excess of €850 a month, or even over €1000 per month for private student accommodation. This does not include the extra charges labelled under ‘utility contribution’ or ‘room costs’ that private accommodation providers have started to leak into their contracts over the past two years.

 

Despite most private student accommodation providers being unable to increase rent by more than 2% per year, they are still finding ways to increase it through extra fees. Of the eight big private student accommodation providers, seven charge extra utilities and amenities fees on top of rent, making private accommodation more and more unaffordable. It is also unclear if this is unlawful or not due to the current laws and regulations regarding rentals, meaning a legal case is most likely futile. Even campuses are charging utility fees, with Trinity College Dublin charging €15 and €19 a week for utilities both last year and this coming year, according to Students4Change a collective of socialist students at the university.

 

Finding a place in the rental market is an even worse option as rent continues to increase every single year. Average rent in Ireland is now at €1,618, up 12.6% from last year which is the largest increase since the launch of the Daft Report in 2005.

 

Students may be forced to rely on short-term lets such as Airbnb for the time being as there are currently 14 times as many short-term lets available on Airbnb than properties on Daft.ie. However, this is only for those able to afford it, as most students have been forced out of the accommodation market simply because they can not afford anywhere currently available.

 

Attendance in college lectures is becoming an issue for those travelling long distances as less people are willing to attend if it takes hours going up and back for each one. Costs are also forcing students to work for a day or two instead of attending lectures as they have to pay for the increasing accommodation costs. When unable to attend campus lectures, this greatly affects their overall campus experience as they miss out on clubs and societies, Student Union in-person support, and other on-campus faculties

 

For international students, there has been close to nothing done to ensure their safety against scammers and fraudsters who will leave them homeless in a place they are unfamiliar with. According to a survey last year by The Irish Council for International Students, almost one in seven international students fell victim to a rental scam. There has been a 65% increase in accommodation scams in the last four years with scammers using social media and false websites to target students, according to gardaí. On top of false websites, some are replicas of real letting platforms, making it far more difficult to spot for anyone unfamiliar with Ireland’s main rental websites.

 

Rental scamming has become such a problem for students that the national housing charity Threshold has joined forces with the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) and the Union of Students Ireland (USI) to raise awareness of rental scams going into this academic year. A new initiative, Scamwatch, has launched as students seek accommodation for the new semester in September. The new campaign highlights the “dos and don’ts” for students and provides them with contact information for Threshold, ICOS and USI where they can request advice about their rights as private renters and safeguards they should take to avoid scams.

A photo of a hand signing a rental agreement. Keys lie on top of the document.

Image: Sharrocks, Getty Images

“We strongly support this campaign given the growing nature of fraudulent cases involving international students trying to source accommodation in the rental sector here,” Laura Harmon, Executive Director of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) said.

“A study that ICOS carried out last year involving almost 500 international students found that nearly one-in-seven (14%) said that they had been a victim of an accommodation scam while in Ireland, of whom a quarter were English language students.

Students struggling to find a place this year echoed the views of those struggling last year and even the year before that. Rising rent prices. A lack of space to live in and an inability to find a suitable place. Travelling hours for lectures. Having to work instead of attending lectures. Rent scams, especially for international students. All of these problems could have been listed off one or two years ago, which already was done to a large degree by other journalists. The only new difference is the extra charges on top of rent. There is also the increase in rent prices, but that has grown to a ridiculous degree years ago at this point and comes as a surprise to no one who knows the rental market in ireland.

 

How many more news stories have to be written before this is fixed to even a minor degree?  Where are students meant to get the funds to pay rent without skipping lectures for work? Most importantly, what is actually being done to stop this exact same article from being written in 2024?

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