For some of those students who were successful in securing accommodation on campus or in Trinity Hall, the rent increases of up to 10 per cent for some rooms may seem unfortunate. However, the increase may leave many more unsurprised, with such increases having become a consistent feature of the yearly offers of accommodation. Indeed, many students, familiar with the unforgiving cut-and-thrust of the Dublin rental market, are likely to be contented and relieved that they have succeeded in securing a place to stay for another year.
The increases in rent were implemented to allow the refurbishment of and investment in the College’s accommodation services. Trinity’s desire to invest more in urgently needed student housing is obviously positive in light of current shortages. The commitment of universities to developing student accommodation has seen recent support from the government’s action plan on housing which was published in July of last year, with the appointment of a new Student Housing Officer, plans for 7,000 new accommodation places by 2019 and for a new student housing strategy.
However, the considerable period of inaction that preceded this move has perhaps limited the effectiveness of public sector measures to alleviate the crisis. Though the range of purpose-built accommodation for students is currently expanding, it is private developers who have contributed to this the most in recent years, with some demanding prices of as much as €250 per week. The proliferation of such developments has made it very difficult for Trinity to compete in such a market, with many attempts to procure sites for accommodation having failed as a result. Instead of procuring and developing accommodation facilities of its own, Trinity’s options are limited to leasing some of the places from developers to ensure their availability for students, albeit at a higher price.
The cost of inaction on what is one particular facet of a pernicious and deepening housing crisis has been a diminution in the ability of the government and of universities themselves to shape the solution. Where there is ever-expanding demand, the private sector will inevitably step in to meet it. Ireland is no stranger to flurries of property speculation and soaring prices, to the extent that one might expect the government to be wary of them. But as they do so, and continue to swallow up a limited supply of available sites in the absence of government intervention, the options available to the public sector to offer its own solution will become increasingly narrow.