Taxpayer subsidizes universities to build 4,500 student rooms on condition rents are lowered

The taxpayer will subsidize 4,500 student beds in exchange for cheaper rents for students over the next few years.

The state is set to step in to help colleges build additional on-campus student housing across the country to help struggling students pay rent.

In return, colleges will have to reduce rents.

Construction could start as early as next year, depending on how quickly planning permission can be granted.

The government hopes this important decision will free up houses around universities, which are mostly rented by students, for families.

Further and Further Education Minister Simon Harris will present the proposals to the government shortly after intensive dialogue with universities across the country.

Technological universities will also be able to borrow funds to build additional student accommodation.

The funding will only apply to state-funded colleges and only in agreement that the state will subsidize student housing in exchange for cheaper rent.

State funding will help bridge the gap between the viability of providing purpose-built student housing and the subsequent affordability of student rents.

The colleges told Mr. Harris they were ready to build 4,500 beds with state help.

Although it is not yet known how much taxpayer funding will be needed for the additional housing, the figure is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of euros.

More than 20 meetings have taken place between his department and the Department of Housing since September last year over the plans, and Mr Harris also met with college presidents in June.

It comes as an additional 1,200 student beds will be provided over the next academic year.

Mr Harris asked all universities last February to provide additional space for students, for example by repurposing existing buildings.

It is understood that while some spaces have been identified, these were currently being used to house displaced Ukrainians.

Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University of Limerick and NUI Galway will provide additional accommodation for students this academic year.

There will also be small increases in spaces at Maynooth University and Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.

Figures from a recent Eurostudent survey show that 40% of students live with their parents, 18% in purpose-built student accommodation and 42% in neither.

Last December, there were around 14,500 bed places in student accommodation belonging to higher education institutions.

“Right now we have students competing with families for houses, especially in cities,” Harris said.

“I want to radically change and improve that. We therefore want and need more housing on campuses, especially in our regions.

“But we also need it to be affordable for people too. There’s no point building housing that people can’t access, or only some people can.

“This new proposal will see the state – for the first time ever – step in directly and help build student accommodation. In return, we will ensure more affordable rents for students.

“I strongly believe that building more college-owned on-campus housing has two benefits: helping students and families, and helping to increase the overall housing supply.”

A recent study by NUI Galway found that the skyrocketing cost of rent was one of the biggest barriers to accessing higher education.

The student life offered by Irish universities is relatively expensive compared to universities in Northern Ireland and other European cities.

The average cost of the cheapest room in Irish halls of residence is €5,451 for the academic year, while in the UK it is €5,025, a difference of €426.

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