Housing crisis: Take in a Student!

As Dublin’s housing crisis hits students hard, the USI is asking homeowners to consider renting a room as digs to ease the shortage.

THE Union of Students in Ireland wants people with spare rooms to rent them out to students in a bid to ease the massive shortage of thirdlevel accommodation in Dublin. The slump in house-building during the crash, combined with increasing numbers of students, has meant that second, third and fourthyear students are already experiencing difficulty in finding rooms – even ahead of the influx of firstyear students who will flood the market when the first round of CAO offers are made on August 18.

Most first-year students are holding off searching for accommodation until then as they do not know where they will be studying yet.

Overall demand for third-level entry has reached record levels, with 77,725 CAO applications this year – up by 1,600 on 2013. Economist Ronan Lyons of property website Daft.ie said the reasons for the accommodation crisis were easy to explain.

‘It comes down to the fact that the city is overcrowded and there is no building taking place,’ he said.

‘Between the years of 2011 to 2013, 4,000 new units were built and it needed 10 times that many.’ ‘The building is not happening because the planning permission system is quite restrictive and imposes high costs on building.

‘The Government could change the system. It is entirely within the Government’s power to turn the system around and allow more flexibility and less costs.’ Dublin City University Welfare Officer, Eve Kerton, said the USI will launch an appeal next week for people to offer rooms in their houses as student digs.

‘We [USI members] met and all the colleges saw that we were having similar problems,’ says Ms Kerton.

‘With inner city rents going up by 10% to 14%, that was pushing Trinity and DIT students out, which was having the knock-on effect of creating competition for DCU on one side of the city and UCD on the other.

‘We need to get a big shout out for digs, because there is no other alternative left for student accommodation.

This is our only option at the minute.

‘A lot of letting agents you find say “no students allowed”.

‘That’s another issue on top of the price, because there are bits and bobs of accommodation that would be suitable but they won’t allow students.’ Prospective landlords have already been offering rooms to students on the DCU Students Union Facebook page.

‘As soon as something goes up, it’s snapped up within five minutes,’ says Ms Kerton.

‘We’ve realised in the last week that it’s a bigger issue, so we’re going to try to tackle it properly – but first we need to get these students in accommodation.’ With so little available on the market, Ms Kerton is worried that students will panic and accept substandard or overpriced accommodation.

‘It’s a mixed bag at the minute in terms of price. If it’s a case where it’s a landlord who has done this for years, they tend to keep it around the same price year to year because they’ve had good experiences with DCU students. In general, it’s around €100 a week. That can be including food or not, it depends on the landlord.’

USI president Laura Harmon said students were struggling to keep up with spiralling rents.

‘The student maintenance grant works out at around €84 a week and I don’t know that anyone can live on that in Dublin. That’s a huge access-to-education issue.’ Ms Harmon said the freedom of student life was now secondary to just finding a place to live for many students, who will opt for rooms in family homes.

‘Of course enjoying student life is important but I think the main goal for a lot of students now is just getting somewhere where they can actually live.’ Rental income is not taxed once it was a room in your own primary residence and the rent is below €10,000 per year.

She added: ‘If somebody is considering renting out a room in their house, there should be clear guidelines as to when people can use shared facilities in the house. That’s something that the landlord and the tenant would have to agree.’ Labour senator Aideen Hayden, the party’s Seanad spokeswoman on housing, met the USI this week and said students were the latest victims of the housing crisis.

‘We are having a serious probgoing lem getting students into housing in time for autumn, so we now have to appeal to people’s better nature.

‘There’s an enormous prejudice against students, similar to the discrimination against people with rent allowance. Landlords are only renting to “double income, no kids”.’ Rents in purpose-built student accommodation have also increased by up to 13% in Dublin colleges. This week, DIT student support service Campus Life published its Student Cost of Living Guide for 2014/15, which found average living costs in the capital had risen above €8,000 a year for students for the first time since 2008, largely due to the rise in rents and public transport. ‘It’s not an issue any place else but Dublin,’ said Campus Life manager Brian Gormley.

‘You’re talking 10% and 14% rent increases. Students are commuting from further away – and that’s another issue as public transport costs have gone up.’

One answer: getting students to share with retired people

UNIVERSITY College Dublin aims to kill two birds with one stone by matching students frantically looking for a place to stay with older people who don’t want to live alone.

The Generation Accommodation service assesses students and pairs them with older people – they then meet to see if they feel they would be happy to live together for a term.

This autumn the project aims to have 25 matches, with students from Ireland, the US, China, South Africa and India linked with older people living in the neighbourhoods around UCD.

The students pay about €400 a month for their accommodation – a very attractive price for a room in south Dublin.

Generation Accommodation organisers Patricia Kastner, 24, and Constantin Link, 25, began living with 58-year-old retired personal assistant Anne Aylmer at her home in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin. The two students, who are both from Germany, are studying at the Smurfit Business School in UCD.

Ms Aylmer has had students staying with her before but likes that the project interviews and assesses prospective tenants before introducing them.

‘Basically I live alone and I’ve always been interested in finding a student because I find it quite lonely when you’re on your own,’ she says.

‘I try to provide a friendly environment where they feel secure and happy and therefore they can study and they have good memories,’ she adds.

Ms Aylmer saw a notice about the project in a leaflet at Mass.

‘Generation Accommodation sounded interesting because I need somebody that is trustworthy.’

Ms Kastner explains: ‘We have a database where we have senior home owners and the students and we match them and they have a meeting on Skype or in person.’ ‘The official contract will be a lease agreement that will also say that there are house rules.’ Once matched, the homeowner and students will be able to decide on or bypass the rules altogether, depending on their needs.

The two students have also got to know Ms Aylmer’s mother Molly who lives nearby.

‘On Sunday I spent two to three hours at Molly’s house, having tea together. I help her out with IT stuff,’ says Constantin Link.

‘She’s got a new tablet computer. It’s different for older people. We’re used to using those things,’ he says.

‘She tells us about Irish things. She was telling us about the area, how it used to be and how it is now. Things like that. [We] get to know more about Irish culture. That’s one of the things she brings us,’ he says.

‘It’s a home away from home. It’s not just digs. And we can stay here, and when she comes in, we have tea together. She comes in and out and we come in and out. So it’s very independent.’ ‘It’s a win-win situation,’ says Ms Alymer.

My old place was better Finding a place to live was almost impossible for Siobhán Lucey, pictured, from Mullingar and her three housemates – as they played cat and mouse with the Dublin housing market all summer.

The 20-year-old student at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dún Laoghaire said she would have been happy to stay in her old house on Kill Avenue but was forced out when it was sold. Having struggled to find a new home for two months, the four settled for a pricier house in Deansgrange.

‘My old place was next door to the college and [I was paying] €350 for a double room. My new house… it’s €450 for a double room to myself.’ Despite the increase, the friends felt they had no choice but to take it given the massive demand:

‘Every time we went on a viewing, four or five other groups were showing up as well.’ Nobody wants students

STUDENT Grace McGrath, pictured, says she could be forced to commute from Louth to Dublin’s National College of Ireland if she does not find a house to share with her three friends.

Grace, 19, who is from Carlingford, Co. Louth, lived on campus in her first year but did not manage to secure a room this year because the demand was just too high.

She has been looking for a place to live with three friends all summer – to no avail. She says the four are willing to share two bedrooms between them to reduce costs.

‘We said we’d have to share because it would be too expensive to find a four-bed house. We’d be paying €600 each.’ McGrath and her friends are looking to pay €500 each for a house in Dublin 1 or Dublin 2 but are finding it tough.

‘We were ringing up, but people won’t take students or do a ninemonth lease.’ If all else fails Grace will have to commute every day to Dublin, a journey of roughly two hours.You’ll take what you can.’

WHEN his landlord increased the rent in June, 20-year-old Femi Bankole from Dundalk decided to move out.

Femi, pictured, studies physics in DIT Kevin Street, and had been sharing a room with a friend on the Old Crumlin Road in Dublin.

‘The landlord told us the rent was going up from €470 to €520 each in a shared room so we started looking in June and only just found a place,’ he said.

‘The place on the Old Crumlin Road was okay but when you’re a student the standard isn’t a top priority, it’s just whether you can actually get it.

You’re just looking for any place that will take you. By the time you get to a viewing, you can see other tenants and you know as a student you’re going to be far down their list.’ Although his new place is more expensive, he feels it’s a better deal: ‘[It’s] €650 for a shared room… but it’s central, so I don’t mind so much.’

North Circular Road, Dublin 1 Description: Several similar studio flats, all of which have shower, toilet, small kitchen, internet, cable TV and washing machine Rent last year: €475 Rent this year: €650

25 Ormond Road, Ranelagh, Dublin 6 Description: Studio apartment in a small house of seven other units. Electric shower, communal washing machine, large back garden with clothes lines, and a bike shed Rent last year: €575 Rent this year: €750

Sallymount Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6 Description: Larger studio apartment includes double bed, locker, computer desk, wardrobe, bathroom and electric shower Rent last year: €725 Rent this year: €800

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Mathilde Frot, Aaron Rogan, The Irish Mail on Sunday, 2014

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