USI officer to tackle housing crisis for students

Junior Housing Minister Damien English has said he would personally like to give students extra cash to deal with soaring rents but that budgets must be balanced.

His comments came as third-level students this week began in earnest to hunt for housing against the background of a shortfall of 25,000 accommodation units for colleges.

The Government has now funded a special student accommodation officer to oversee barriers to students getting a room.

Mr English outlined how the €49,000-a-year position with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) would help alleviate difficulties for students on the hunt for accommodation.

The intention was now “to increase the number of students who are seeking digs,” explained the Meath West TD.

Last year the USI helped place over 600 students into digs but this year it is hoped the number will be over 1,000.

The minister admitted this was a “drop in the ocean” compared to the tens of thousands who would be seeking accommodation away from home.

Damien English
Damien English

The minister said the Government’s housing action plan would “take time to achieve” but he was also asked if students should get extra money or additional grants because of the high cost of rents.

He replied: “Naturally I’d like to give all the money I could to help with accommodation cost. But there is an issue of trying to balance a budget.

“It is hard to increase the [existing student] grant, but they are monitored on a regular basis.”

Planning, financing and building delays needed to be overcome to help build student accommodation quicker, he said, noting that 700 such purpose-built units would open this autumn.

“In the construction of student accommodation, it shouldn’t take as long as it takes to build family homes. We are trying to work with the stakeholders in that market to provide that space, to provide student accommodation.”

Students are concerned that they have been priced out of the market ahead of the new academic year, especially in Dublin where there already is a housing crisis.

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