Around 100 students from University College Dublin (UCD) today protested against the college’s decision to introduce “ridiculous” rent increases of 12 per cent over the next three years.
The rent hikes will see the cost of accommodation on the Belfield campus increase to between €8,000 and €9,900 per year.
Students gathered outside the student centre before moving to the Tierney building, where the office of the college president is located – while a meeting of the university’s management was taking place.
Speaking to The University Times, University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) President Joanna Siewierska said that the college has not issued a formal response to an open letter that the union sent to them nearly two weeks ago.
“We partnered with two other on-campus groups, UCD Fix Our Education and UCD Anticasualisation”, Siewierska said, “because this problem is a symptom of the commercialisation and privatisation of education, using students as an income stream”.
Siewierska expressed “solidarity with Trinity and with other institutions” facing “ridiculous” rent increases.
“We’re public institutions, we’re not businesses”, she said.
As well as UCD, Dublin City University and NUI Galway have announced their intention to raise on-campus rent by four per cent – the maximum yearly increase permitted for properties located in rent pressure zones.
The University Times reported last week that Trinity could 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 2019, changes to the Residential Tenancies Act meant rent increases for student accommodation were capped at four per cent.
Yesterday, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin wrote 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.
In a press statement, Ó Broin said 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.”
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.