Government expects to meet student bed spaces target

The Government says that targeted increases in purpose-built student accommodation should be met or even exceeded by the end of next year.

Work in progress at the rear of the fromer Beamish & Crawford site viewed from Clarkes Bridge, Cork. Photo: Billy MacGill.

Its July 2016 Rebuilding Ireland housing strategy set a target of having beds for an extra 7,000 students in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) by the end of 2019. The target is almost identical to the number of bed spaces in PBSA schemes where work was already underway or planning permission had been granted by last summer.

According to a new progress report on the National Student Accommodation Strategy, which was published by the Department of Education last July, 5,260 bed spaces are already completed or are due for completion by the end of this year.

Up to the end of March, it says, 2,687 PBSA spaces had been completed, and another 5,482 are under construction. Planning permissions exist for another 8,636 bed spaces and applications are in place for nearly 1,000 more.

Most construction is taking place in Dublin, where around 12,500 of the 33,000 bed spaces in existing PBSA developments last summer were located. That is expected to reach 18,000 by the end of 2019.

In Cork, around 3,000 additional bed spaces could be added to existing stock in purpose-built schemes, if large projects currently the subject of planning applications come to fruition in addition to those already under construction or which have secured planning permission.

A development due to be ready by September will provide 190 bed spaces at Western Rd near University College Cork. Construction began in November at the former Beamish & Crawford site on a 413-space city centre project. BAM Property Ltd was asked last week for revised drawings in relation to its plans to add 42 more beds in an extra floor.

While the majority of PBSA spaces are built by private developers, Education Minister Richard Bruton said his Department will work with colleagues in the Department of Housing, Union of Students in Ireland, third-level colleges and industry to ensure that availability of accommodation is not seen as a barrier to accessing education. He said: “The growth of the student accommodation sector not only delivers benefits to higher education institutions in attracting and retaining students but also plays an important part in addressing the national accommodation shortage.”

Despite the increasing availability of PBSA bed spaces, the extra provision is not expected to keep pace with growing demand from rising numbers of Irish and international students attending third-level colleges here. The strategy published by Mr Bruton last summer projected the excess of demand over available places in purpose-built developments would grow by more than 2,000 by 2019 to 25,750, although this is expected to drop back to 21,000 by 2024.

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