As the pressure mounts on students and their families to find accommodation for the new term, one campaign to make more rooms available to students is beginning to bear fruit.
In recent days, the Union of Students in Ireland distributed 21,000 flyers advertising the ‘rent-a-room relief’ scheme around university areas. This scheme allows homeowners to benefit from a tax-free €12,000 relief if they take in a lodger.
USI president Kevin Donoghue said within a day, 30 new householders had expressed an interest in the scheme. He said it was often from families whose children had left home and who now had a room free.
“One taxi driver said to me it was ‘empty nest syndrome’. He himself was doing it,” said Mr Donoghue, who also noted that the scheme was a good way of reintegrating students into local communities.
A Daft report published yesterday showed just 4,600 properties were available to rent on August 1, compared to 6,800 on the same day last year and 23,000 properties on the same date six years ago.
Mr Donoghue said the fall in available accommodation was forcing students to commute longer and longer distances and, in some cases, choose their course based on whether they would be able to find and afford accommodation.
He pointed to figures from the Irish League of Credit Unions, which found 62% of students are living at home compared to 44% in 2013.
When that is aligned to figures which show the number of people getting non-adjacent student grants for going to college more than 45km from their home address, it would appear many are choosing to commute long distance but stay at home.
Enda McGuane, managing director of Winters Property Management, which manages student block accommodation, said first-year students in particular may struggle to find somewhere to stay for the new term.
“As more professionals take up full-time jobs, they are living in apartments which are now no longer available to students,” said Mr McGuane. “There is 50% less stock this year from a letting perspective than there was last year. Those who will lose out the most will be students and ultimately the losers will be prospective first years getting their CAO offers this week. They don’t know where they are going to college until the offers come out. So, by the time they come into play, there’s nothing left.”
Meanwhile, homeless charity, the Peter McVerry Trust, has called for the Department of the Environment to bring forward emergency legislation to freeze rents in the private residential rental market.
The charity said emergency rent controls were needed until issues over future residential supplies are addressed and that otherwise more individuals, couples, families and children will become homeless in the weeks and months ahead.
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