College students have staged a protest outside the Dáil amid growing frustration over the accommodation crisis across Ireland.

Representatives from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) say that thousands of students have been left without a place to live at the start of the new academic year.

USI president Clare Austick said many students have been forced to stay in hotels, B&Bs, hostels or commuting long journeys to and from college.

A number of those taking part in the protest will sleep outside the Dáil on Thursday night to highlight their campaign.

“We’re angry, we’re outraged we’re frustrated. We’re annoyed that the Government just has not taken our calls on board and haven’t taken the student accommodation crisis seriously enough,” Ms Austick said.

She called on the government to declare the student accommodation crisis as an emergency and provide long-term effective and sustainable solutions for students.

“We want them to ensure that there’s more purpose-built student accommodation that’s affordable for students, that there is a regulation on rents and that whenever there’s new courses introduced, or new course places are introduced, that there’s always a place for students to sleep in,” she added.

“This all comes down to access to education. Students have been priced out of education because there’s no accommodation that they can stay in, and enough is enough and this is why we’re here to be heard.”

Beth O’Reilly, a sabbatical officer with the USI and a graduate of UCC (University College Cork), said the problem has worsened over recent years.

“The Government wants to pull the wool over their eyes with it, they don’t want to deal with it, they don’t want to think about it so we’re bringing the crisis to their doorstep,” Ms O’Reilly added.

“They have to really reckon with what their policies have caused in the student population.”

She said there are many students, particularly international students, who are facing huge issues in getting accommodation.

“The delayed Leaving Cert results meant that a lot of students didn’t know where they were going to be attending college until a lot of the accommodations was already snatched up,” she added.

“It’s been difficult across all year groups, but I do definitely feel for first years who are really thrown right into the deep end.”

There is a huge shortage of rental properties in students areas, which has now spread to rural areas, including Waterford and Carlow.

In a statement, a spokesman for Dublin City University, said that it is experiencing “unprecedented demand” for on-campus accommodation.

“We receive at least four applications for every bed-space available for on-campus accommodation and we have now allocated all our rooms with a waiting list in operation,” it said.

“While DCU doesn’t have any evidence to date of deferrals due to lack of accommodation we are aware from our Student’s Union of the significant pressure this deficit is putting on students and their families.

“There is a significant crisis in student accommodation that has only been exacerbated by the lack of a sustainable and economically viable housing model for student accommodation both off campus and on campus.”

 

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said the lack of accommodation is having a “profound effect” on students accessing education.

“It’s a ridiculous and unsustainable situation, but it’s been well flagged to you and your government and previous government for many years,” Mr Doherty told the Dáil.

He called on Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to introduce emergency legislation that would prevent purpose-built student accommodation being repurposed into tourists accommodation.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “It’s something the Government is very much aware of, the challenges that students face as they return to third level education.

“We responded by increasing the student-assistance funds. Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the availability of bed spaces in on-campus accommodation.”