By Brandon Byrne
The housing crisis has reached depressing new lows with the Department of Housing reporting at the end of August there was a record number 10,568 people living in emergency accommodation.
This figure however does not account for the many thousands sleeping rough, living in direct provision or women in refuge centres. Housing charity Threshold warned of an “onslaught of evictions” to come from a rental market in a spiral, with rents rising out of reach for most people and the availability of properties plummeting.
Camping on campus?
Amidst this crisis are also Ireland’s young people, with nearly 50% of young adults aged 25-29 living in their parent’s home, forced out of the rental market with little hope of affording their own home. This issue is compounded for students, who are placed in even more precarious positions due to needing accommodation close to where they study and having to balance education and work. The lack of investment in student housing by universities and the state has led to a booming demand for rental properties near colleges, with landlords charging exorbitant rents.
Molly Greenough, President of UCD Student Union has spoken of students taking out loans as they cannot afford to pay rent for the coming year. Some are contacting the union to ask if they are allowed to camp on campus in order to attend their lectures.
A dire situation
Outside of Dublin, the situation is still dire, according to a survey by Maynooth Student Union last week, 53% of students looking for accommodation for the coming academic year have still been unable to secure a place. The lack of housing for students here is particularly damaging as Maynooth is the closest university to serve much of Ireland’s midlands. This means that the overwhelming majority of students are commuters, many have said that they travel four or more hours a day to attend lectures.
The lack of affordable housing for students in Ireland is leading to an erosion of the right to an education. Thousands of students are being forced to drop out as they cannot access or afford a place to live. As long as the private rental market is allowed to control the supply of housing this situation will continue and worsen. Students unions, allied with the trade union movement, must organise mass demonstrations and actions to ensure that the state is forced to immediately step in and build public accommodation, on campus and off campus, to meet the housing needs of all.