Student accommodation rents across the Twenty-Six Counties have soared to record highs in recent years, out of the reach of many low- and middle-income students. Every institution of higher learning has increased the price of its accommodation for the current academic year.
Less than seven percent of purpose-built student accommodation units built in Dublin since 2016 are available to rent for less than €840 per-month. The vast bulk of these units have been built by international corporations seeking to cash in on the housing crisis.
The lack of affordable student accommodation is now serving as a significant block to some people even entering the higher education system. And many of those that do are forced to work long hours in order to pay their rent, to the detriment of their education.
Students want affordable, quality accommodation, not the luxury towers built by multinational corporations. Large cinemas, swimming pools and bowling alleys are no substitution for secure tenure at an affordable price.
Groups have been formed in several Dublin Universities in response to the student accommodation crisis, with proposals for rent strikes high on the agenda.
Cut The Rent TCD, based in Dublin’s Trinity College, has already organised meetings around the topic, with future actions planned. Trinity College increased its rents this year, despite making a €10.9 million profit on accommodation services in 2018.
The Union of Students in Ireland has also threatened to call for a rent strike. The USI has said it has had discussions around the topic in recent months and has looked abroad for successful examples.
In England, student-led rent strikes have scored some major successes against exploitative University administrations. Students in University College London took part in rent strikes in 2016 and 2017. Over a period of five months in 2016, hundreds of students withheld their rents from UCL management.
The UCL administration eventually relented and granted the students £1.5 million in concessions, in the form of bursaries, compensation and rent cuts. Despite threats of eviction and attempts by the UCL administration to victimise individual students, they collectively refused to be bullied or divided.
Éirígí For A New Republic believes that rent strike campaigns are needed across Ireland to make student accommodation accessible for all students, not just the privileged few. The demand for affordable, secure student housing must be intertwined with a wider progressive housing campaign calling for the decommodification of the housing sector.
The short-term goal of alleviating financial pressure on students must go hand-in-hand with the end goal of creating a system of Universal Public Housing, which would include the construction of purpose-built universally accessible student accommodation.