By Rose Barrett
Dublin Central Labour Senator Marie Sherlock has slated the granting of planning permission by Dublin City Council to allow 987 student rooms to be rented to tourists and other short- term tenants – during the academic term.
Senator Sherlock was outraged that, as many students find themselves out-priced in a competitive rental market, the extension of usage for the student rooms flies “in the face of the Planning Act.”
Futhermore, Senator Sherlock noted it wasn’t acceptable that student operators can use the planning system to “cushion themselves against future losses” and that too much ‘flexibility’ in the planning status of a designated facility seriously undermines the planning system.
Sherlock called on the Minister to fast-track Labour Party legislation which would end this practice and provide certainty to communities.
“Student accommodation operators have claimed that a lack of demand means they should get planning permission to take in tourists and others requiring short stays during the academic term.
“Instead of ensuring that prices fall to meet demand, DCC and An Bord Pleanála have repeatedly allowed operators to keep their prices elevated by broadening who they offer accommodation to.
“Not only is this contrary to the Section 13(d) of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, it makes a mockery of the planning system,” she stated.
Senator Sherlock told the Dublin Gazette:
“In my own area in Dublin Central, we know that a number of student accommodation operators are charging €250 per week and currently have availability for this academic term. But many students simply cannot afford this cost.
“My office has been inundated with queries from concerned students and parents. Indeed, those in receipt of the 100% non-adjacent SUSI grant will see their grant cover less than three out of nine months during the academic year.
“If we are encouraging people into higher education, we must provide enough affordable accommodation to get them there!”
She continued: “It is crazy that in the midst of a student accommodation crisis, we find ourselves in a situation where 987 student beds across Dublin 1 and Dublin 7 have planning permission to take in students, as well as workers forced to take short stay accommodation or tourists.”
The inner city area was designated as a key area to accommodate students, noted Senator Sherlock. There are two student accommodations on Domonic Street, another at Highfield on the North Circular Road and another at Ardcairn in Grangegorman.
“Since 2019, student accommodation operators were experiencing a low demand and they duly requested DCC to grant planning permission to be exempt from the terms of the act during the academic season.”
Even before Covid struck, the Labour Senator noted operators were complaining they were behind on completing construction projects and sought to let out completed units to students and tourists. With a shortage of hotel rooms before Covid, operators claimed to be supplementing the tourism industry.
“Successive planning decisions have given a green light to operators to offer their rooms to a wider audience, and thereby drive up the prices, rather than addressing the real issue, which is, keeping the prices at a level students can afford!
“To my knowledge, DCC have approved almost every application they received to extend the planning permission. We, as in Cllrs Declan Meenagh and Joe Costello and I, have appealed several applications – yet none were refused!”
“Labour’s Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 which was published by Senator Rebecca Moynihan would restrict this practice. If the Minister is serious about addressing the crisis in student accommodation, he should work with us in the Labour party to fast-track this legislation.”
Dublin City Council declined to comment.