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Ireland: housing continues to be a concern

Soaring rents and lack of housing availability for international students in Ireland requires urgent action from the government, two student associations have said.

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An Overcrowded Housing Bill was put forward in 2018, but is still at committee stage

According to The Irish Council for International Students and the Union of Students in Ireland, a crisis in student accommodation is forcing many international students into overcrowded accommodation.

Almost half of all English language students taking part in an ICOS survey at the outset of the pandemic were sharing a room with three or more people, with 11% of the students sharing a room with six or more other people. Only 10% had their own room.

“International students are more vulnerable when it comes to accommodation as they often arrive in Ireland with little knowledge of the rental market landscape, meaning they run a higher risk of being scammed or exploited,” ICOS executive director, Laura Harmon, said.

“Rising rents and a lack of available properties to rent forces many students to live in overcrowded accommodation. We urgently need a review and overhaul of current legislation on overcrowding, which dates from 1966 and is no longer fit for purpose.”

The PIE previously reported in September 2021 that international students had been struggling to source places to live. ICOS called for urgent legislative reform to deal with the problem.

An Overcrowded Housing Bill was put forward in 2018, but is still at committee stage.

USI president, Clare Austick, said that the student accommodation crisis is “currently the worst it has ever been”.

“The appalling overcrowding international students are facing is not okay and must be addressed by government action,” Austick noted.

“The appalling overcrowding international students are facing is not okay”

“Students cannot afford accommodation in Ireland right now and international students are so much more vulnerable as they often don’t have much support and feel they have to take beds in overcrowded rooms to put a roof over their heads.

“Immediate action must be taken on this and other student accommodation issues, so that students can live in proper conditions while trying to get an education.”

Private providers are looking to open new residences. The likes of US-based student accommodation operator Yugo has said it will open a new 235-bed block in Dublin in September having reported full occupancy across its Irish residences, according to Business Post.

In a statement to The PIE, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said it is “acutely aware” of the challenges students face in relation to student accommodation and that it is “continuing to work closely” with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the issue.

“The shortage of student accommodation is happening in the context of the wider housing crisis,” the spokesperson said.

“There is a great need to increase the supply of all types of housing and accommodation, including student accommodation.”

Housing for All, led by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, sets out a series of actions which will be delivered to fix the housing crisis, they added.

“The plan is backed by the largest ever housing budget in the history of the state to transform our housing system, in excess of €20bn.

“In addition, government has taken measures to address affordability and rent increases. Rent increases in student accommodation are capped under the Rent Pressure Zones.

“Legislation passed last year also restricts the amount that students or other tenants can be required to pay up front for their accommodation, ending the practice whereby students were required to pay a lump sum up front each term, often in the range of €2,500 to €3,500.”

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