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USI Submission to the Committee on Housing and Homelessness

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Download the full submisison here: USI Submission to the Oireacthas Committee on Housing and Homelessness 11:5:2016

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Student purpose-built accommodation as a housing issue was predicted in 2007 by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) which paved the way for a detailed report titled Students in the Private Rental Sector: What Are The Issues? Since this report was published in 2009, there have been no long-term solutions put in place to deter the current crisis, or prevent the crisis from worsening.

The Irish economy has shown signs of recovery with the rate of unemployment falling at its lowest level in over 5 years. Student housing (lack of purpose built on-campus accommodation and private sector rent price increase and lack of rental properties) continues to fuel a dropout culture in third level education yet education is widely recognised as a key factor in social and economic wellbeing in Ireland. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) predicts that there will be an increase from 167,991 students in Full Time Education (FTEs) in 2014 to 192, 886 FTEs in 2024 indicating the strong demand for accommodation will be increasing within a decade. Students are sophisticated partners in higher education with high standards from their experience in Irish higher education including high-quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive available housing – standards that mirror those set by Construction 2020.

By providing alternative housing to students, or purpose- built on-campus accommodation, we will relieve the rental market of the burden placed on it and prevent overcrowding and competition among those who are homelessness, seeking social housing or families.

The current number of bed spaces suitable for student accommodation is estimated to be 31,296. With the current situation problems are arising for students in the private rental sector such as: increasing rents, exit of low- income student tenants, overcrowding and homelessness, state exposure to rising private rents, taking leases beyond capacity, not receiving deposits, and affordable, long-term tenancy (Housing Agency, 2014). In the housing market, students are competing with those who can pay higher rents. This gives rise to homelessness, overcrowding and health and safety risks with a wider impact on labour mobility and having a negative consequence on the functioning of the economy and society where purpose built accommodation can free up more housing for others in society.

Case studies collected here from University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway show that accommodation services are increasingly overwhelmed with issues from students seeking accommodation in relation to: rent increases, lack of available and affordable accommodation and tenants rights.

This submission discusses the work of the DUWO (a Dutch student-housing corporation set up after the Second World War to assist with a huge lack of student accommodation in the Netherlands) and the establishment of an Irish Student Housing Trust. This would act as a long-term comprehensive solution to the accommodation problem, which is adaptable, and student focused. It must be noted that this ambitious request will not occur overnight, but should be considered by the Government as an extensive long-term goal by 2027 but must begin immediately.

The recommendations can be found on the following pages and outline the key tasks to be undertaken to begin tackling the issue of student housing.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. For the Minister for Housing with the Committee on Housing and Homelessness to create a Student Housing Strategy in consultation with the USI that sets out long-term solutions, goals and timelines. This should be similar to the Social Housing Strategy and Homeless Strategy.

2. To provide funding €90,000 to hire a Student Housing Officer that will work with the USI and liaise with relevant stakeholders to fulfil certain tasks such as:

  1. Help students find full-term accommodation;
  2. Operate a search for property database;
  3. Conduct research on student housing across

    Ireland;

  4. Investigate alternatives for student housing;
  5. Operate an online find a tenant service

    through homes.usi.ie;

  6. Operate a student focussed find a roommate

    database through homes.usi.ie;

  7. Operate an online digs database through

    homes.usi.ie;

  8. Improve and operate dispute resolution

    procedures for students;

  9. Liaise with authorised housing authorities;
  10. Advise on the Student Housing Strategy;
  11. Begin developing and planning of an Irish

    Student Housing Trust.

3. Minister for Housing with the Committee on Housing and Homelessness to create a Student Housing Strategy in consultation with the USI to faciliate and support the creation of an Irish Student Union Housing Trust that will act as a corporation set up by the USI to tackle the student accommodation crisis in order to alleviate the pressure from the private rental market.

4. Investigate the feasibility and provide for the creation of a capital grant specifically for HEI’s planning, development and construction of on- campus student accommodation.

5. To ensure that NAMA recognises the student housing issue as a social issue and to be recognised as a social housing issue to assist with development and planning to meet demand.

6. Consideration to be given to tax measures to develop on-campus accommodation for HEIs.

7. Engage in meaningful consultation with NAMA regarding the availability of suitable properties and land that could be used for student accommodation by HEIs or HEIs working on joint projects.

8. Encourage and facilitate the construction of multi-purpose buildings on campus. i.e. Academic, commercial and residential existing in the same building.

9. Future developments should adhere to the recommendations for enabled access for students with disabilities.

10. That all actions coming out of the Committee for Housing and Homelessness focus on the provision of quality, affordable accommodation in a timely manner and to avoid prioritising one at the expense of the others.

11. To develop a coherent programme of conditional supply-side supports to increase availability of affordable rental housing.

12. Introduce a system of rent regulation to provide greater certainty for student tenants and landlords through a mechanism for disciplined market-sensitive rent adjustment

13. Amend part 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to include a provision that allows for students’ unions or other representative bodies to have legal standing to challenge on behalf of their membership the introduction of new rents in purpose built student accommodation centres, where those rents are raised outside of term time.

14. Amend the equal status act to include discrimination relating to students in the provision of accommodation as one of the grounds.

Download the full submisison here: USI Submission to the Oireacthas Committee on Housing and Homelessness 11:5:2016

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