Sinn Fein TD Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams has hit out at the lack of accommodation options available to students attending Dundalk Institute of Technology - and says the housing that is available often prices out students who need to avail as they study at the third level institution.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, the Sinn Féin TD urged the government to support a new bill that will bring student renters under the the Residential Tenancies Act, thus giving them access to the Residential Tenancies Board.
The situation with regards to student accommodation in Dundalk has previously been described as "dire", with calls put out to local landlords in the hope of acquiring 'digs' for new intake students coming to DkIT.
Even with private rented accommodation to supplement the already available student housing, it is not enough and the chronic lack of options is leading to fears DkIT is becoming a commuter college.
"In my own constituency of Louth, USI representatives at DKiT tell me that the lack of affordable accommodation is affecting the numbers able to take up courses. Accommodation and its cost can also badly impact on educational attainment and course completion rates," Adams said.
"In its 2017 student accommodation report, Cushman & Wakefield reported that there were sixty thousand students chasing thirty-five thousand spaces. It is estimated that this number will increase to almost seventy thousand students looking accommodation in the next 5 years.
"Most students at DKIT can expect their current student accommodation to cost almost 500 euro a month, with many paying significantly more than that," Adams continued. "This is generally for a single room."
"We know that in Dublin the costs are even greater with some students being expected to pay over 900 euro a month in rents."
The outgoing TD, who is being replaced on the party ticket by Louth County councillor Ruairi O Murchu in next year's local election, believes the new bill - The Residential Tenancies (Student Rents, Rights and Protections) Bill 2018 - will help students, including ensuring they are included in Rent Pressure Zones.
"If the Dáil really believes in access to education at all levels then all obstacles must be removed so that our young people, in particular, can reach their full potential and that includes student accommodation with decent rents and conditions. The reality is that there is not adequate student accommodation, especially in border constituencies like Louth."
"A year ago there were 11 student accommodation projects under construction, ten of these are being built by private developers. This means that this is seen as an opportunity for profit.
"The Residential Tenancies (Student Rents, Rights and Protections) Bill 2018 is one way of tackling this. It does what it says on the tin. It’s about including student licences under the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act.
"This ensures that properties in the affected areas are covered by the rent pressure zones and provides access for those living in student properties to the Residential Tenancies Board. It’s a common sense proposal that has been welcomed by student’s groups. It can assist students to stay in full time education by ensuring that they are not being charged exorbitant rents”.
DkIT's Student Union offers advice and support for those students looking into accomodation options in the town and the greater area. The number of rental accommodation options has steadily decreased in the area over the last number of years, it is understood.