Those who have lived in student accommodation know that their abodes are far from palatial.
Colleges charge an arm and a leg for flats that provide minimal privacy, bland furniture and meagre amenities.
University College Dublin, for example, will next year charge students €8,059 minimum for on-campus accommodation – an increase of over €1,000 compared to this year.
According to its website, some options kindly offer a hob and microwave, but not an oven.
Of course, students don’t expect to stay in the Four Seasons for their time in college, and student accommodation offers the promise of new friends and an exciting social life – particularly for first years.
But the exorbitant prices colleges currently charge simply cannot be justified with what’s on offer.
However, there was some good news for student renters this week, when the government announced that it would bring a watered-down version of a Union of Students in Ireland (USI) bill to cabinet, which would put a two-month limit on upfront payments for student accommodation.
A million and one things can happen to a student between the beginning and end of a term, so having to pay a whole year’s rent or even a semester’s worth of rent at the start of a tenancy was always outlandish.
The move is a step forward, but why couldn’t the government limit up front payments to a month, as the USI bill proposed? A month’s rent can mean a lot to a cash-strapped student.
Aside from that, the government has to prioritise getting those rents down. Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has talked the talk on student accommodation and struck a sympathetic tone towards college goers scrambling for every penny needed to get by.
However, year on year, rents creep up, and Ireland’s cities become less affordable for those who come from less affluent backgrounds. It is infuriating that students must constantly raise these concerns and see the government do the bare minimum.
This week was a step in the right direction, but the government must do so much more. So far, the signs that it has any intention of doing so are limited.