With the new college term set to begin, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) and TCD Students’ Union (TCDSU) this week launched a final plea to homeowners within reach of their campuses to make their spare rooms available to students on a fair and reasonable basis.
The two students’ unions, which collectively represent almost 60,000 students, say that the student experience, graduate employability and the future of a growing number of Third Level students and young people is at risk, and that the failure of successive Governments to address the issue has created a higher education catastrophe. Further to this, while there appears to be some degree of Government planning for the long term, much more needs to be done for students currently part of, and seeking to access further and higher education for the 2023-2024 Academic Year.
In response, the UCDSU and TCDSU team have partnered and arranged for a mass leaflet drop in areas close to the universities, as well as those with good public transport links into College Green and the Belfield and Smurfit Campuses respectively.
Speaking at the launch of the digs drive, TCDSU President László Molnárfi said: “Our aim with the digs drive is to secure accommodation for students, many of whom are struggling to find a place for the upcoming academic term. We shouldn’t have to do this, but sadly, we are forced to due to the state of the housing crisis. We have seen students sleeping in cars, couchsurfing with friends or dropping out of education altogether. We have called for action on short-term lets, derelict and vacant housing and the commodification of housing, but the issue is not being dealt with the urgency it deserves. We call on anyone who has a spare room to rent to sign up to our accommodation platforms, and we call on the government to treat housing as a human right, not as a commodity.”
UCDSU President Martha Ní Riada added:“Homeowners with a spare room can make a real difference to a student’s ability to pursue their education. We are asking them to consider offering a 7 day arrangement where possible, as 5 day lets are unsuitable for many, in particular international students. Students need somewhere safe to stay and we’d urge anyone availing of the Rent a Room Relief Scheme to ensure that the lodger has access to appropriate facilities and isn’t subject to onerous conditions, or not to make a stay contingent on other conditions, such as housework or caring responsibilities. A new cohort of students will begin the scramble to find accommodation on Wednesday with CAO round 1 offers released. Purpose built student accommodation is already oversubscribed and digs arrangements are increasingly a part of the student housing landscape, so this needs to be done in a way that is fair to students.”
The unions, while drawing attention to advantages of the Rent-a-Room Relief Scheme, in which homeowners can claim up to €14,000 tax-free, are also asking homeowners to consider the impact of the cost of living crisis on students and to keep this in mind when setting rental levels. This follows a growth in homeowners seeking rents akin to 7-day rents for just five nights of the week; a practice that the students’ unions say is leading to an even higher bar being set for their members. Some homeowners have also been seeking student labour in exchange for a room. Students, they say, need affordable, adequate places to live, and for the full week where possible, in order to reach their full potential.
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