Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Deputy Mairéad Farrell, gave a cautious response to Minister Harris’ announcement yesterday of a new €400m funding stream for the delivery of affordable student accommodation.
Ministers Harris and Darragh O’Brien (Housing) announced €400m funding yesterday from the European Investment Bank (EIB) that will be matched by funding from the Housing Finance Agency (HFA). SF stated there was, as yet, little detail on how this will differ from the current model of delivery.
Teachta Farrell said: “Of course, an announcement of additional funding is welcome, but the main problems in terms of the current delivery model is that it is simply unaffordable.
“We’ve had the delivery of high spec accommodation that can be as much as €12k per year, which puts many students and families out of the running, or forces them to incur a major financial burden.
“We need to see the detail on this and what criteria will be used to set an affordable rate of rent for students. We need to understand what conditionality, if any, will be applied to Universities accessing this funding, to ensure that rents are affordable.
The Ministers state this new major financing mechanism would give higher education institutions the capacity to potentially deliver more than 2,700 student beds across Ireland.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) agreed a new €434m student accommodation financing initiative to support higher education institutions in the development of affordable student housing.
Minister Harris said: “This is fantastic news for Irish universities and their students, and I want to pay tribute to the EIB and HFA for delivering this important agreement.
“Every student bed we create has a double benefit. It helps the student and their family, but it also frees up private rental accommodation in our cities and towns. This investment by the EIB and HFA will have significant benefits for access to education, and crucially to the wider housing market.”
The investment announced yesterday is separate to the Government announcement where a total of up to €6m was provided to unlock the development of over 1,000 beds across four universities, with delivery beginning in 2024.
Minister Harris added: “This announcement will assist institutions with the cost of building accommodation and help bridge the gap between viability and affordability for students.
“Applications will now open and I look forward to seeing the outcome of this important partnership.”
The funding arrangement involves a 40-year €200 million loan from the EIB, with the HFA more than matching the investment, bringing the total to €434m. This funding will form part of the 25 per cent of the Housing For All commitment made by the HFA.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien said: “This Government is focussed on scaling up the supply of all types of housing and accommodation, including student accommodation which we know is so badly needed.
“The HFA is already playing a significant role in facilitating the delivery of thousands of social and affordable homes throughout the country. So it is well placed to play a lead role in improving the supply of student accommodation. I want to commend everyone involved in this historic agreement.”
Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, added: “The European Investment Bank is committed to backing visionary investment that strengthens access to education across Europe and over the last decade has supported transformational investment at hundreds of Irish schools and all Irish universities as well as construction of social housing across the country.
“The €200m 40-year EIB financing agreed with our long-standing partner HFA today will build new student accommodation across Ireland, providing students with better and more affordable places to live and reduce pressure on local housing.”
However, Deputy Farrell claimed the Minister’s announcement stated that he had ‘received approval to extend this lending to Technological Universities’.
She said: “To date, the Technological Universities have been unable to borrow as there were doubts about whether this borrowing would be on the government’s balance sheet, so we need to hear the details on how/why this has changed.”
“We know that the Department of Housing carried over the maximum 10 per cent of its capital budget from last year, and as my colleague Eoin Ó Broin pointed out yesterday in national media, they appear to be significantly behind again this year.
“We need to know that they will have a renewed focus to ensure that they will be able to spend this additional funding.”
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