Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo, Lisa Chambers, has hit out at Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, for failing to cap spiralling student accommodation rents. The government has for a second year running failed to implement rent caps on student campus accommodation, according to Chambers.
Deputy Chambers stated: "Students and their parents are being forced into a rental crisis when it comes to student accommodation. Many students, particularly from rural Ireland, have to live away from home for college.
"This is the case for the vast majority of Mayo students attending third level. Rent prices on campus have increased to a point where it is unaffordable for many families. Some students are finding themselves in the awful position of having to turn down or defer a much wanted and hard earned college place because they cannot afford the accommodation. Third level education should be universally accessible but I am worried it is moving towards being unaffordable for ordinary working families.
"Fine Gael in Government and the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, promised two years ago to introduce rent caps on campus accommodation. The Government promised rent caps would be in place for the academic year of September 2018/2019 and again for 2019/2020, but this never happened. There is no excuse and the government has failed to explain why it didn't deliver on this promise.
"New laws assigning student residences as rent pressure zones (RPZs ) were passed by the Dáil last May and fully supported by Fianna Fáil. However, the Minister made a huge error in setting the deadline for caps to come into force only when CAO offers were out. This was a complete waste of time for students attending college this year as prices were increased in advance of the deadline.”
Deputy Chambers continued: "Universities around the country had three months to get their ducks in a row when it came to increasing rents for the coming academic year before the four per cent cap being applied. Colleges preempted this clampdown, rendering it useless for the coming academic term. This is a massive failure on the part of the Minister, who should have known this would happen.
"Students in some universities are facing rent increases of up to 11.5 per cent year on year for university-owned and on-campus accommodation. Students attending Dublin City University are facing rent increases of up to five per cent. NUI Galway students can expect to see close to a 4.5 per cent increase in similar accommodation and students attending University of Limerick are facing rent increases of over six per cent.
"Due to the housing crisis students and their parents are really struggling to find properties in the private rental sector and are looking to college owned accommodation more and more. Houses just aren’t there to rent like they might have been in previous years and students have nowhere else to go but hope for a place in college owned accommodation.
"There is also responsibility on the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, to deal with the funding crises in third level education. It is clear that cash strapped universities and colleges are using their accommodation income as a way to top up resources. The students are indirectly paying for the government's failure to properly fund third level. It has been three years since the government received the Cassell's report into third level funding and it has failed to take any action on its recommendations, despite repeated calls from colleges and universities across the country.
"Under Fine Gael in government we have witnessed third level education become more expensive and less accessible for ordinary working families. Rents have increased, despite the government having the ability to stop it if they had the political will.
"It has become increasingly difficult to qualify for a SUSI grant and those that do qualify find themselves reassessed annually with some students losing part or all of their grant if they have earned too much money themselves over the summer holidays. It seems that whatever way you turn there are more and more barriers to students going to and staying in third level education. Fianna Fáil is committed to equal access to education for all and I will continue to hold this government to account for its unfair education policy," concluded Chambers.