There is a danger that access to third level education may become profoundly exclusionary and the preserve of high-income families if the student accommodation crisis is not dealt with in the short term.
That’s according to Independent TD for Laois Offaly, Carol Nolan, who was speaking following confirmation from the Union of Students of Ireland that the inability of students to source accommodation is the worst it has ever been.
Deputy Nolan, who also sits as a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, went on to say that she had been highlighting the predictable nature of the crisis for some time but that despite this Government has failed to respond appropriately:
“In June I was informed that there were 19 providers of student accommodation offering housing to international protection applicants covering 30 sites and that this provision would, in the main, end at various points in August, representing a capacity of c. 4,500 from both third-level institutions as well as from the owners of privately-owned student accommodation,” stated Deputy Nolan.
“However, it was also confirmed to me at that time that a small but unspecified number of the privately-owned student accommodation contracts would extend past August. We can now reasonably assume that what was predicted to be a small number has grown quite considerably and that a significant number of privately-owned student accommodation is no longer available for that purpose.”
“I stated at the time that it was absolutely critical for Government to ensure that the already under-resourced and exceptionally squeezed student accommodation market did not fall victim to the lack of forward planning, especially in circumstances where the problem areas have already been clearly identified.”
“I also said that the proper response to an international crisis is not to create a domestic crisis on top of that.”
“That approach has been thrown out of the window with the inevitable result that our own students are finding it next to impossible to access not just affordable accommodation, but any accommodation whatsoever. On top of that we now have the absurd introduction of a levy on concrete which will only increase the costs of building student accommodation. This kind of disjointed and incoherent approach is utter lunacy at a time when we need obstacles to be removed not created.”
“My fear is that students who have had to defer because they cannot source housing will not be able to source it next year either, leaving third-level education to become the preserve of the wealthy or those fortunate enough to belong to very high income families,” concluded Deputy Nolan.