UCD’s decision to cancel plans for student accommodation raised in Dáil

by Alex Greaney
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Deputy Neale Richmond asked the government to get UCD’s cancelled student accommodation plans back up and running. 

He said: “UCD, is the largest third level institution in the State with a student population of over 25,000. While the news that came out earlier in the week that the college authorities have decided they are no longer able to push ahead with 1,200 additional on-campus accommodation spots is extremely disappointing, sadly it is not greatly surprising given that the reason cited for the cancellation or postponement of the project is rising material and labour costs and the difficulty in accessing both those things. 

While this is a disappointment and a challenge, I feel there is an opportunity here because the president of the university has indicated it is seeking Government support to get this project back up and running.

In other fields where major national infrastructure projects are threatened due to rising costs or lack of labour, the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform has said the State will intervene and will work with developers and contractors to address those needs. That is a fair assessment and this case comes under that situation. 

It is regrettable that the university has stated it needs to ensure that the rents to be charged on campus will cover the costs. We want rents on campus to be charged in a fair and equitable manner, reflecting that the people living in this accommodation are full-time students. 

These are younger people who may have a part-time job but do not have the means to pay excessive market-based rates.

We are talking about third level education, involving the training and education of the future engineers and architects who will build the next phase of housing, the doctors and nurses who will staff our health service and even possibly the next generation of Deputies. 

Who knows what will come out of UCD in the coming years?

They need to be able to be educated in a manner where their accommodation needs are not distracting excessively from their studies, which is something that is happening throughout the country at the moment. It has given rise to protests by student unions up and down the country within institutions and on a national level. 

We have another exciting opportunity that needs to be taken forward. This was a plan for just 1,200 accommodation units. Given the footprint of the UCD Belfield campus, we all know it has the opportunity to construct large levels of student accommodation. The space is there, the services are there and the transport infrastructure surrounding it is there. 

There is absolutely no reason we cannot inform UCD that the assistance will be provided on two conditions: that the Government can have a direct say on the rents being charged to students; and that UCD ups its level of ambition to a realistic level that will service not just the needs of UCD but also the needs of the entire State. It can alleviate a great deal of the pressure on the general rental market in Dublin, particularly in the south Dublin area that surrounds the campus. 

Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Deputy Niall Collins has said of Deputy Richmond’s request that: “we are very aware of the difficulties faced by students trying to secure accommodation. It is an issue that we are actively pursuing and resolution is a high priority for the Department as a whole.

“We are finalising a memo to Government at the end of the month for approval on the assessed proposals to facilitate a number of short-term activation options set out earlier. UCD is obviously part of that conversation, as are the University of Limerick, UL, Dublin City University, DCU, NUI Maynooth and others. 

“We also have to be honest that building will take time and we have to examine different options too. We are examining how we can come up with quicker solutions to address the immediate need. We are open to discussion with UCD and any other college that wants to build accommodation. This will be essential if we are to relieve the pressure on the overall housing market and to assist students with the help they need.”

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