UCD has confirmed that the Muckross Halls Residence will no longer be available for students this year after the Dominican Order which owns the site opted against renewing the lease with the university. The off-campus accommodation is located near Marlborough Road in Donnybrook, on a large area of land owned by the Order.
Eilis O’Brien, Director of Communication and Marketing at UCD, stated that UCD ‘had a lease arrangement with the Dominican Order for the former Hostel at Muckross Park which included 56 rooms, and this was renewed on a year to year basis pending the Order’s longer-term plans. The property was never in the ownership of the University.’ She noted that UCD is of the understanding there are ‘plans to develop a school at Muckross Park which was the reason why the Order did not want to renew the lease.’ The residence is located near Muckross Park College, a secondary school for Catholic girls.
O’Brien noted that the accommodation at Muckross ‘included catering and historically was less popular than on-campus accommodation.’ The Tribune’s own investigation into the occupancy rates for UCD Residences corroborates this claim. A recent Freedom of Information request issued by the paper revealed that Muckross Halls Residence had 62 available beds listed in 2016. 51 of these 62 places were filled in September 2016. This rate of 82.3% was the second lowest percentage of filled accommodation last September. There were 53 assigned beds there in October 2016. This dropped down to 49 beds, or a 79% occupancy rate in March 2017. Muckross Halls had the lowest percentage of occupied rooms out of all the residences in both October 2016 and March 2017.
The UCD Residences website had details of Muckross Halls Residence available last night. It was removed earlier today. However, a version of the webpage for the halls is still accessible. It stated that Muckross contained ’53 single rooms with shared kitchens, bathrooms, dining rooms and TV rooms.’ It was the second most expensive residence, behind Roebuck Castle catered. Accommodation for the full year was listed at €8,436. It consisted of the licence and fees of €5,269, utilities of €396, insurance of €35, and catering of €2,376. The first 55% of the cost was due to be paid by the 31st of August.
UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) expressed disappointment at the news. Eoghan Mac Domhnaill, UCDSU Welfare Officer, described the closure as ‘a blow. It’s very disappointing to think that beds are being taking off the market in the midst of a national student housing crisis ahead of CAO offers on Monday.’ He said that UCDSU have been ‘spending a lot of time and energy to put beds on the market with Daft.ie and TCD Students’ Union ahead of September.’ Mac Domhnaill referenced their undercover campaign on house viewings last month. He noted it was carried out ‘to show that the market’s in a bad way and needs more investment to create new and affordable student accommodation of a suitable standard.’
UCD has sought to minimise the fallout from the announcement. O’Brien said the use of the Halls were ‘always a short-term arrangement as it is our intention to expand and manage on-campus accommodation.’ The statement issued by UCD drew reference to the 354 new rooms opened on campus at Ashfield last September. Nevertheless, the revelations have come at a bad time for both UCD and its students, with the new academic term just several weeks away.
Cian Carton, Co-Editor