Students at University College Cork (UCC) are prepared to take strike action unless rents are frozen in college-owned accommodation for the next three years.
UCC Students' Union made the warning following the news that UCC is increasing campus accommodation rents by 3% for the 2020/21 academic year. The decision came this week amid announcements of similar hikes at other universities across the country.
In an open letter to UCC president Professor Patrick O'Shea, the students' union demanded a full reversal of the 3% increase. According to the union, it follows increases of 5% in 2018 and 11% in 2019.
In the letter, Ben Dunlea, UCC Students' Union president, said, "In December 2019, you yourself expressed the desire to provide affordable housing for students and emphasised that 'outside the box' thinking was necessary."
He added that placing "increasing severe financial strain" on students is not 'outside the box'."
"UCC Students' Union is demanding a full reversal of the board's decision and a rent freeze to be placed on UCC accommodation for three years, in the hopes that policies will be implemented at a national level to mitigate against the Irish housing crisis."
Failing such a decision, the UCCSU will mobilise and prepare for strike action, he added.
A UCC spokesman said the university did not increase the cost of campus accommodation in the three years leading up to 2018 and current rates are below those provided by private operators.
"Campus Accommodation UCC is currently servicing loans of over €41 million that is exclusively related to its properties which provide 1,277 student beds," he said.
"Campus Accommodation UCC is financially self-sufficient, and receives no State funding towards its efforts to create and maintain high-quality student accommodation at rates below the market average."
The costs of maintaining and developing student accommodation has risen and all profits generated are reinvested, typically used to cover refurbishment, security and maintenance costs, he added.
Similar rent increases for the upcoming year have been announced at UCD, DCU, NUIG, UL and TCD.