By Ciara Tamay
A new development of student apartments in Dublin’s Liberties has been criticised for extorting students and taking advantage of the housing crisis as rents starting at €249 per week were announced to the press. The complex will be open for the next academic year, and a show apartment is open for viewings- but the rents announced yesterday have angered students and representatives who say they’re excessive, even for Dublin.
In 2015, the Irish Times announced a Dubai group had been granted planning permission for 400 new student units in a five-building Mill Street development. This, along with other student complexes in construction, was hailed as helping ease the accommodation crisis for students.
The new apartments on Mill Street will be called Uninest and are tucked behind the Liberties area and Thomas Street, and a close walk to George’s Street. They’re ideally located near DIT Kevin Street and Aungier Street campuses, and will probably attract students in Trinity and private colleges in the area.
Dean Murray, college officer for the DIT Students’ Union said the prices are ridiculous and not a solution to the student housing crisis.
“I don’t think it’s any solution at all, I think it’s creating another problem.”
“They’re one hundred per cent extorting students out of money they don’t have” he said, adding that he already struggled to pay €500 a month for his accommodation.
“It’s ridiculous to expect this off students. Over 40% of students in DIT are on the SUSI grant, and even if they get the full special maintenance grant which is €657 a month, they still won’t be able to afford a month’s rent.”
There are other supports available to students in DIT, such as the student assistance fund, but this doesn’t cover rent. Rent allowance is usually not available to students who move to Dublin for their studies, and Dean’s rent of €500 would be too high to be accepted for it anyway.
Dean says it flies in the face of the efforts of colleges to acknowledge and help with students with financial difficulties. “If we’re acknowledging that students are stuck for money we’re not going to stand behind this,” he said.
But, however students and institutions feel about the new buildings, there is nothing to stop companies such as Dubai-based GSA from using Dublin’s housing shortage as an investment opportunity. Planning permission proposals for the huge quantities of new student complexes are available online from Dublin City Council, but there is nothing in these plans to give government, an Bord Planála, or anyone an indication of what rent the owners or landlords will eventually charge.
An employee of the planning office said it’s entirely up to landlords to set rents, and has nothing to do with the tender process.
Legislation is in effect in Dublin to cap rents, but it only restricts landlords from increasing rents year on year- there is no need for developers to provide accommodation at a reasonable price or to attempt to profit from their investment at a particular rate.
In 2015, the Higher Education Authority published a report on student housing needs which counted 31,296 beds available suitable for students across Ireland in 2014. The required number for that year was 57,104. Their projections for the growing supply and demand of student accommodation takes into account developments which are about to come available, like the Mill Street one, meaning that students who can afford €1,000 per month or more for a single room are the only ones who will be given new options.