The housing and accommodation crisis that has engulfed Dublin continues to worsen, thanks to the lack of any decisive political action. Rent levels have shot up repeatedly as the capital is undergoing a renewed spike in property values. The result is that many students, particularly in UCD, are at pains to try and find affordable accommodation near campus as the academic term starts this September.
Property prices have had a resounding comeback in the capital, as the lack of housing units in the city has seen the competition to secure rental housing run upwards unchecked. Yet the real economy for the majority of ordinary people is that wages are stagnant, job security is transient, and the availability of credit is scarce. The market therefore is to the distinct advantage of the landlord. This leaves students seeking accommodation, long-term renters, and those looking for first time mortgages on the wrong side of an increasingly unaffordable market. Rents in the last year have seen a standard 10% rise across the city centre and the south side of Dublin, according to the latest Daft.ie report. The political response from the government to the escalating situation has been laissez-faire at best, leaving those at-risk and under pressure to the will of the market.
The rise in rent feeds on from the impasse many families and professionals now face in trying to take out a mortgage, pushing them back into the rental market. This subsequently overcrowds the field, and hikes up the prices landlords can exact. The Central Bank’s plan to try and plateau Ireland’s boom-bust property cycle was to increase the minimum deposit required for a mortgage. This decision has led to a drop off in mortgages, and created a fierce competition for a declining number of rental housing units in Dublin. The paradox of the Central Bank’s decision however, is that now most working families cannot save up enough for a mortgage deposit, due to the increasing cost of rent year on year. The complex issue is being left to fester by the government, who are hesitant to take significant action for fear of making the crisis situation worse.
The impact for students is that they are both priced and stigmatized out the market. The shortage of housing units and abundance of willing renters means landlords can be selective with whom they rent to, often openly stating “No students” when advertising. The uptrend in rental prices for even modest units is also simply pricing students out of the market. UCD has a sizeable portion of students whose home county is unrealistic to commute from, and so they must find housing near Belfield for the college year. These students also find it the hardest to find solid employment without connections in the city, and are left to rely on savings from summer work at home, maintenance grants, or assistance from their parents. The tentative financial stress of an expensive college year living away from home is only exasperated by this indefinite rising cost of rent.
Third year Arts student Adam Duffy is one of the many frustrated students who have been looking for accommodation near UCD over the summer. “I personally have had a lot of problems with the unreliability of landlords and sub-letters on daft.ie. There’s a clear lack of suitable accommodation, [and] many landlords are taking advantage of this and vastly inflating prices for really sub standard rooms. A lot of people seem to expect students to settle for crappy overpriced accommodation. This is simply not good enough.”
Minister Alan Kelly is said to be preparing a package of rental regulations to combat the crisis and bolster renter’s rights. Their focal point however is distinctly targeted at long-term renters, with increases to rental security the main policy point. The government has, however, been remiss in its efforts to deal with student’s specific grievances. Landlords, under the aforementioned reforms, will have to provide evidence of three similar price increases in their area before they can raise the rent. This loose form of rent control is a welcome initiative, but one that simply comes too late in the day for students seeking housing for the immediate college term. The government’s paralysis in finding a solution before the start of this college year only illuminates how low students factor into the priorities of the policy makers on Merrion Square.
Incoming UCD Student Union President Marcus O’Halloran gave his take on the crisis when speaking to the Tribune –
“Its extremely disheartening, the cost of accommodation is atrocious, and there’s no sustainable model in place to fix it… something has to be done now.”
The government’s hands off approach to finding a solution over the summer has seen the crisis spiral to the extent that many unfortunate students will have to defer college for a year if they fail to secure housing in time. Those who did manage to find a room or flat in Dublin’s bear-pit rental market will likely be left paying extortionate prices for poor quality accommodation.
Words by Jack Power, Politics Editor