Comment: Housing crisis hitting students hard

Comment: Housing crisis hitting students hard

Last week thousands of students of the Leaving Cert class of 2017 received their college course offers.

Most will study away from home, and making the jump to third level can be a challenging, as well as an exciting time.

Unfortunately, the practicalities of it can also be stressful, particularly so in the attempt to find accommodation.

The reality now is that the housing crisis, combined with astronomical rents, means that the hope of finding affordable accommodation is beyond the reach of many students.

Tens of thousands of people need a place to live this September. This is a hard and fast rule of the academic year.

Yet despite the predictability of it, successive governments have been unable to plan for it. And now, in tandem with the wider housing shortage, the situation is at crisis point.

Many find themsleves at the mercy and whim of the private rental sector, due to the shortfall of on campus accommodation. This shortfall is estimated to be about 25,000 places.

There has been no real attempt to address this. Indeed, budgets for higher education have been cut in recent years, exacerbating the problem to no end.

Everyone is trying to compete in the same marketplace, and students are alongside professionals and families in a haphazard rental market, where prices have now reached an all time high.

Even companies are struggling to help staff find and stay in rented accommodation in a situation where the number of properties available to rent is at an all time low.

At €1,000 a month the private rental market is clearly beyond the reach of many.

At its most extreme, there is a very real risk that some might now find themselves priced out of pursuing their career path. College is, afterall, enough of a financial burden for many families without this factor.

More student accommodation is due to be built over the next few years, but its all too likely that demand might well outstrip the eventual supply. Numbers at higher education are set to increase by a further 20,000 over the next while.

And yet the impetus for action seems to be well behind all these demographic trends.

Attempting to fix a problem at crisis point throws the lack of adequate planning into sharp relief.

Yet, action is now clearly needed, despite the fact that it may be too late for the class of 2017.

The government needs to increase its budget for education.

The Institutes of Technology, which are spread throughout the country, should be allowed to access funding to help them build accommodation on their campuses.

At present, they are prohibited from doing so under legislation, unlike other other universities which have been able to secure loans to build new accommodation.

The Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy is due to publish the third major government housing policy in four years in September.

Student and rental accommodation clearly need to be addressed.

The State does have a responsibility for providing accommodation, if the private market cannot do so.

Afterall, one cannot put too high a price on the value of higher education.