Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has written to university presidents seeking a meeting over “deeply disappointing” rent increases that he says “are not recognising the spirit” of new laws introduced to curb the price of student accommodation.
With his party locked in talks aimed at forming a government, Ó Broin – who topped the poll in his constituency of Dublin Mid-West – said in a video on Twitter today that “the news that a number of universities are set to increase their rents for three years in a row is deeply disappointing”.
“Students have a right to affordable accommodation and good quality education”, he added, “and rent hikes are not the way to achieve that”.
In recent weeks, news of rent increases have made headlines in student and national media outlets. University College Dublin has confirmed it will hike rents by 12 per cent over the next three years, while a Dublin City University spokesperson last week confirmed to the College View that the college will implement a four per cent increase next year. NUI Galway has also confirmed rent increases.
The University Times reported last week that Trinity is to discuss a proposal to raise the price of its student accommodation – as well as a “€10 per week premium” on rooms in its Printing House Square complex – at Finance Committee level.
In a press statement, Ó Broin added that “students cannot afford any more rental increases and should not be priced out of the University of their choice due to accommodation costs”.
“Sinn Féin and other opposition parties worked hard to force a change in the legislation to ensure that on-campus student accommodation was included in the rent pressure zone legislation”, he said. “This made it illegal for on-campus student accommodation providers to increase rents by more than the 4% cap.”
“While the Universities are adhering to the letter of the law they are not recognising the spirit of the law.”
In 2019, changes to the Residential Tenancies Act meant rent increases for student accommodation were capped at four per cent.
Today on Twitter, the Irish Universities Association – which represents universities, and last year lobbied for an exemption to the four per cent rent cap – wrote in reply to Ó Broin that university “accommodation is funded largely through borrowing so any solutions that may be proposed to address the long standing and urgent funding crisis in 3rd level would be welcomed”.
“We’re aware that some university presidents have responded to your letter and agreed to meet you.”
The price of student accommodation came under major scrutiny last summer after The University Times revealed that over 90 per cent of purpose-built student accommodation developed in Dublin since 2016 costs €840 or more.