Dozens of DCU students have taken to the streets to protest a rise in rental costs of two privately-owned student residences, which are home to around 600 students in total. The decision of both Shanowen Hall and Shanowen Square - two purpose-built student accommodation complexes with no direct affiliation to DCU but which house DCU students - to increase their rental prices by 23.5% and 27% respectively for next year has spurred on the protests.
The cost of a 9-month lease for a single student in Shanowen Square has been raised from €6,845 to €8,695; while the cost of a 9-month lease in Shanowen Hall has been raised to €8,325. These leases are, to be specific, 37-week leases and are thus set at a rate of €235 per person per week and €225 pppw, respectively.
These two properties had already introduced a significant price hike at the end of the last academic year. According to emails sent to CollegeTimes by a DCU student living in Shanowen Square, the cost of rent for a single room rose has been rising steadily over the last number of years. Since 2012, the cost of a 9-month lease in Shanowen Square has essentially doubled from approximately €4,500.
The university itself was forced to put out a statement clarifying that neither of these properties were owned, or under the management of DCU. The university also sympathised with the 'justifiable student concern' caused by these proposed fees.
— DCU (@DublinCityUni) March 28, 2018
Speaking to CollegeTimes, DCUSU president Niall Behan, described the increases as "completely disgraceful" saying that "the rates they're trying to charge shows that they're simply exploiting students."
CollegeTimes has on numerous occasions tried to contact both Shanowen Square and Shanowen Hall for comment as to what has necessitated such a drastic increase in rental prices in the space of two years, but we have so far failed to receive any reply. We were told by a representative of Shanowen Hall that the property's owner would only discuss decisions relating to the property in person and that they would not communicate with anyone by email or by phone.
The students of DCU have been similarly left in the dark as to what has necessitated these price increases. "We have not been able to get in touch with representatives of either Shanowen Hall or Shanowen Square to talk to us about this," Behan said during our interview earlier in the week.
In response to these increases, the Students' Union decided that direct action needed to be taken to show students' dissatisfaction with the decision.
The #ShanowenShakedown campaign began yesterday with dozens of irate students initially meeting in DCU to voice their opposition, before marching with placards to Shanowen Hall and Shanowen Square to take their protest directly to these residences.
— Andrew Keegan (@Keegan1Andrew) March 29, 2018
— ⭐ amy o'connor ⭐ (@amyohconnor) March 29, 2018
Indeed, DCU's campaign had already found some success before it had even begun. A third privately-owned student-rental complex, Gateway, had also announced a similarly dramatic rise in their fees at around the same time. However, DCUSU met with representatives of Gateway on Tuesday and, according to president Niall Behan, their proposed increase will not be going ahead. "We met with Gateway today and they clarified that they won't be raising their rent. Although it was stated that they would be, they have reversed this decision."
The fact that both Shanowen residences have been so reticent to communicate with students directly about why these increases are necessary has proved a tipping point for helping the SU decide to protest, with Behan saying that it is evident these accommodation providers are simply "looking at students as customers, as cash-cows to be milked".
Some people have questioned the legality of these price increases given the fact that there are laws prohibiting landlords from increasing a leased tenant's rent by anything more than 4% per year. Unfortunately, due to the fact that students, regardless of whether they end up staying in one of these private residences for the duration of their college education, sign new leases each year, they are thus treated as new tenants each year and aren't afforded any of the legal safe-guards given to long-term tenants. Consequently, the accommodation providers are technically entitled to raise their rents by whatever margin they so desire for each new academic year.
We won’t stop until we we get what we want. We want a complete reversal of these increases and proper legislation to stop increases of 27% from being a possibility. #ShanowenShakedown pic.twitter.com/0GdUsDGep2
— DCU Students' Union (@DCUSU) March 29, 2018
By protesting, the students are hoping to put pressure on the companies running Shanowen Hall and Shanowen Square to, at the very least, meet student representatives to talk through these increases. The movement has already garnered significant support online and, with further action yet to be planned, this will be crucial in bringing this issue to national attention so that a meeting between the concerned parties can be arranged with a view to having the proposed fee increases rescinded.