The government’s new Student Housing Officer will not be responsible for UCD students, Annie Hoey President of the Union of Students in Ireland has confirmed.
Last week the government announced that as part of their overall housing strategy they would provide the USI with €49,000 to hire a Student Housing Officer. The housing officer’s role would be to assist students who are having difficulty finding accommodation.
But UCD students will not be able to avail of the new government-funded housing officer, as they are not part of the USI.
UCD last year rejected a referendum by 74% to rejoin the national students’ union and remains the only college in Ireland outside of the USI.
The USI President Annie Hoey confirmed the Housing Officer would unfortunately not be responsible for helping or assisting UCD students finding accommodation.
The Students’ Union President in UCD Conor Viscardi said there is no reason to be disappointed and the news shouldn’t be seen as UCD students being left out of the government’s solution.
“The agenda for students’ unions around the country is to create more student bed spaces and alleviate demand in the housing market” Viscardi stated.
UCD SU and Trinity SU launched their own campaign alongside Daft.ie to raise awareness of ‘digs’ as a potential solution for the student accommodation crisis. ‘Digs’ is when families rent out a spare room to a student for the year, and they can earn up to €12,000 tax-free each year by doing so.
Viscardi stated that the main priority is to try and help students struggling to find affordable accommodation for college, be it from the UCDSU’s “initiative with Daft.ie, or USI’s publicly funded initiative.”
The difficulty students have in finding an affordable place to rent during college is set to heighten in the coming years, as the amount of people in third-level education will rise by 15% between now and 2024.
The spiralling of rents ever-upward has been most acute in the South of Dublin, hitting UCD students trying to find a home for the academic term the hardest. The average rent in South Dublin has now reached nearly €1,500, an 8% increase just in the last year.
The Student Housing Officer will also be responsible for working with the government Housing minister Simon Coveney to put in place a ‘national student accommodation strategy’ by 2017.
But with UCD not in the remit of the USI’s Housing Officer the views and perspectives of Belfield students will not necessarily be taken into account in the planning of the government’s long-term solution.
The aim of the government plan for student accommodation is to develop purpose build student housing. This will stop students competing with professionals and families for ordinary residential rental units near colleges and driving up prices. The government has planned to use the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and potentially NAMA properties to build or refurbish housing blocs specifically for students.
Jack Power | Editor