Brian MacCraith, the president of DCU, has called on policy-makers to introduce legislation to prohibit exploitative increases in rental costs in private student accommodation.
He made the calls in the wake of the outrage that has greeted the decision by two privately-owned student residences used by DCU students, Shanowen Hall and Shanowen Square, to increase the price of their 9-month student leases by 27% and 23.5% respectively. This decision, coupled with the reticence of either of the companies to meet with representatives of the DCU student body to discuss the reasons behind these increases led to DCU Students' Union to organise a protest march yesterday afternoon.
Dozens of students met at the university yesterday before marching to these private residences where they voiced their opposition to the decision.
The university itself has been quick to throw their support behind the students and to make it absolutely clear that they have no affiliation with these third-party accommodation providers and are thus not responsible for the prices they set.
Please find statement in relation to student accommodation pic.twitter.com/xnFZgLXiEg
— DCU (@DublinCityUni) March 28, 2018
Following on from this statement the President of the university Brian MacCraith, released a statement where he labelled these sharp increases as "simply unacceptable".
In the statement he berates the two private accommodation providers in particular for their decision to capitalise on the accommodation shortage, knowing full well that the demand for exceeds the available supply. More broadly however he goes on to criticise the regulations and financing difficulties inherent to constructing accommodation in Ireland, and student accommodation in particular. He states that "the costs of construction for the University of a five bedroom student apartment is now in excess of €550,000."
Such costs are both a significant factor in the difficulties faced by universities to provide university accommodation as well as a motivating factor in third-party, private developers feeling justified in charging students such inflated prices.
DCU calls for regulation of rent levels for private student accommodation. Statement by President of Dublin City University, Prof. Brian MacCraith pic.twitter.com/ZjGM5EjtNC
— DCU (@DublinCityUni) March 30, 2018
In response to these calls Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, speaking on FM104, said that protecting students from the type of licensing agreements used by these private residences, which prevent students from availing of the safeguards afforded to long-term tenants, would be something that his department would look at. He also reiterated that there are plans in place to build accommodation for some 21,000 students by 2024. Indeed, he announced that this figure is to be increased, from the original target set out in July 2017 at the launch of the accommodation strategy, by some 1,500 beds to a nationwide total of 22,500.
DCU SU have pledged to continue campaigning against the increases in Shanowen Hall and Shanowen Square until they are revoked.