New Report Shows Students Taking Loans Out To Cover The Costs Of Renting
| Last updated
The housing crisis in Ireland has affected all areas and cohorts of people. Often with the sheer scale of the problem, some aspects get overlooked such as the impact on students and the barriers it creates to accessing higher education.
However, a new report produced by the Students Union at Ireland’s largest university, UCD, has shed some light on the issue and highlighted the impact of the student rent crisis on the college’s students and the wider impacts on educational inequality and the mental health of Ireland’s young people.
To discuss the report and the crisis at large, LADbible Ireland spoke to the President of the UCD Students Union, Molly Greenough who said the report “demonstrated that the crisis is an ongoing one that has worsened in some areas over the past year.”
Among the startling statistics included in the report are that 18% of renters do not have some form of a written agreement which details the terms and conditions of their lea and that 10% of them have had to take out private loans to cover the costs of renting.
Greenough said that “For students to be incurring debt just to put a roof over their head, we would say it really demonstrates a government failure to adequately combat the crisis.” Speaking about the lack of lease agreements, she added: “Any lack of knowledge about your rights is dangerous because then leaves a lot of room for exploitation.”
While the rent crisis has a massive effect on student finances, the problem goes far beyond that and impacts the quality of education those students receive. The report stated that the lack of supply of student beds is “starting to have a seriously worrying impact on the pursuit of education.”
The report notes that an inequality in education is emerging between those who live on campus or rent comfortably who can benefit most from college life and opportunities while those in precarious positions see a negative impact on their studies.
As expected, this is having a serious effect on the mental health of students and is a large part of the wider mental health crisis among young people. 45% of respondents to the report have stated that finding accommodation or their current accommodation has had a negative impact on their mental health.
On this issue, Molly Greenough said: “We weren't overly surprised yet it's disheartening to see it there, backed up by data.” She added “It's in the moments when you see people being evicted
in the last minute, people susceptible to scams because they're hoping the deal was good enough to be true, then you can see how that does directly link back to students mental health. Without a secure roof over your head, it's difficult for anything else in your life.”
Molly Greenough also spoke to us about the difficulties of getting student voices heard on the issue and the deja vu experienced by student representatives who raise the issue year in and year out.
When it comes to solutions to the crisis the report suggests the government tackle other economic factors for students by abolishing student fees and a reform of the SUSI grant system. It also suggests the government should redouble its efforts to provide genuinely affordable student beds and provide legal protections for vulnerable students in digs.
Greenough told us “In our view, most of the problem is rooted in government policy, but we wouldn't leave UCD off the hook either.” She suggests the university cut prices for on-campus rents and to make affordability the central pillar of future on-campus accommodation saying “You can build quality beds without an extortionate price tag attached.”
While the start of the college year often brings a lot of news coverage about the issue, Molly and the UCD Students Union are hoping to raise the issue now so the government has the time to make the changes now that are necessary to avoid catastrophe when the new college year kicks off.
Action needs to be taken to minimise the financial, educational and mental health toll the student accommodation crisis has taken out on Ireland’s young people year after year. While the union's report has some shocking and worrying findings, there is plenty for the government to adopt and learn from to support vulnerable students going forward.