Students are Being Exploited by the Housing Crisis

Words: Dray Morgan

More than three-quarters of students are affected by the chase for a place to stay as the academic year rolls around again. Last year saw the worst student accommodation crisis Ireland had ever seen. With the few purpose-built spaces available, pricing out most of those embarking on third level education. So where does the average student stand?

Last year, we saw stories of people sleeping in tents in Galway, on couches in Limerick and setting off on two-hour commutes from all over the country. The sheer lack of housing in the nation has not only had an impact on those who are struggling but young people from all socioeconomic backgrounds are affected year on year by the same issue.

The effects of the pandemic seem like they will never be solved. Due to a drop and subsequent spike in college applications from 2020 to 2021, there were more applicants than ever to start university in Ireland.

Students have to choose between education and shelter as those who live in rural areas have no choice but to drop out of college or face commutes which take over their week.

A 21-year-old woman, who wished to remain anonymous, detailed of her impending seven-hour commute, three times a week from Galway to IADT, for her third year of college. After losing her room in Dublin to her landlord’s family member, she will be forced to commute the width of the country for the second time in her three years of further education.

“Places are either overpriced or taken too fast,” she explained, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do, it’s affected my concentration, my ADHD and my levels of fatigue.”

One-fifth of all college students spend over two hours per day travelling to and from their universities. They’re stuck in a nether zone of paying significant amounts for public transport instead of coughing up astronomical rental prices.

The commute from Galway City costs approximately 20 euro for a student to travel. At a rate of three days per week of commuting, this adds up to 240 euro per month.

“SUSI won’t help me and I don’t have the time to find a job because my schedule is so chaotic” she continued. The deterrent of paying out of pocket for a commute which is longer than your school day has resulted in students taking time off school or even dropping out of college altogether.

Earlier this month, more than five hundred students in Sligo had to look for alternative accomodation as their properties were sold off to the private rental market. The current ordeal labelled a “crisis situation”, has resulted in the college currently trying to find shelter for hundreds of students, just one week before the start of the semester.

Milligan Court, Sligo

For those who do not have the safety net of a commutable family home, the matter is far more serious. A 20 year old Trinity student from county Limerick detailed his expereince couch surfing in order to stay in college.

“I had a place but it fell through two weeks before I was supposed to start college,” he began,”I was looking at going back home to rural Limerick with no car and no job”.

Last year, a study conducted by Sinn Féin found that two-thirds of students in university are contemplating dropping out due to a lack of accommodation. Four-fifths of Irish students admit that the stresses of the housing crisis and finding accommodation have negatively impacted their studies at some point.

Another first yesr student in Maynooth is currently expereincing the pressure of finding accommodation at he goes into his first week of college this week.

“I was facing homelessness with two weeks to go,” he says “now that the date is here, I’ve made no progress”. In what is supposed to be one of the most exciting times of a young persons lives, experiences are being more than muddied by the traumatic experiences of trying to find a home.

In June, Technological University Dublin (TUD) released their cost of living guide for students. In it,€1,565.99 was reccommended for expenditure in order to live and study in Dublin. Keeping in mind that the average one bedroom apartment costs €1,700, the guide allocates €685 for rent. The guide also recommends the same budget for travel whether you are living at home with your parents or not.

New student accommodation that is being built, is being sold to the highest bidder for extortionate amounts. A simple internet search would show that if you did have the close to €1400 per month to spend on rent, you still would not be able to find a place as they’re completely sold out.

Last month, the homelessness record was broken once again, with 12,847 people looking for emergency accomodation due to a lack of housing. Gardai have reported a 65% increase in scams related to student accomodation since 2019. The housing crisis is a breeding ground for exploitation and students are one of the demographics at the forefront of this.