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Student Accommodation Booked Out Before CAO Offers

Student accommodation complexes have been fully booked out, despite the majority of college places not being offered until late August. Round 1 CAO offers are not given out until August 21st, but all of the bigger student accommodation options have already been booked.

University Hall, Victoria Lodge, Victoria Mills and Castlewhite Apartments, all of which are at least partially ran by the University, have been fully booked, with no spaces on their waiting lists. These four complexes cater to approximately 1,200 students, and are the ones most promoted by the college. These complexes also tend to be the most accessible for students with disabilities and mobility issues. Applications for these apartments closed in March, and while prospective students were allowed to apply with a valid CAO number, and there may be some cancellations, the waiting lists for all of these are now closed.

Dean’s Hall (both Bishopstown & Crosses Green), Mardyke Hall, Carraigbarre (including Carraigbarre House, Carraigrua on Washington Street and Carraigreed off Barrack Street) and the ‘College Accommodation Cork’ properties (The Spires, Farranlea, Sheares Gate & Davcon Court) are also all fully booked, with most either not giving the option of being added to a waiting list or not mentioning one at all. Abbey Wharf (North Mall) was also full at the time of writing, though they did offer to add applicants to a waiting list. Brookfield Village, who manage Brookfield Apartments & Jennings Pool apartments, were not taking first year applicants any more. The Student Village (Carrigrohane Road) website states it is fully booked for first years for the upcoming year, and when an enquiry was made about further years of study, it was discovered that only 3 or 4 places were available due to cancellations.

I spoke to one student, who asked to remain anonymous, and asked them why they thought almost all of the special-purpose student accommodation was booked out so early; they believed that one possible reason is an increased influx of international students, particularly from the United States and the United Kingdom. Indeed, according to an article by The Irish Times applications to UCC from international students has risen by 40%, the highest rise for any university in Ireland. In that same article, UCC President Patrick O’Shea was quoted as saying that

[At UCC] we’re not going to admit international students at the expense of Irish students, nor will we admit them simply for money. This is an opportunity to focus on quality and build the capacity of the system.

Prof. Patrick O’Shea, UCC President.

And while that may be true in the sense of the academic output of the university, this increase may put strain on an already stretched accommodation system.

UCC Students’ Union (UCCSU), alongside the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), have called on both students and local residents to consider digs. Digs is a term generally used to refer to when someone rents out a spare room or rooms to students. The USI campaign has highlighted the benefits to potential landlords, mainly that they can “can avail of €14,000 tax-free a year from a rent-a-room relief scheme.” UCCSU Welfare Officer Kelly Coyle spoke on Newstalk Breakfast this morning about the accommodation situation in Cork, as well as encouraging elderly residents to consider renting out their spare rooms. In the past week, we did notice a slight increase of rooms being offered on the UCC StudentPad website (from 47 to 58), with 24 of those being owner-occupied.

With no new apartment complexes being built before the beginning of the academic year, we looked at the UCC StudentPad accommodation website. This online service performs a similar role to the UCC Accommodation Office, which closed several years ago. We looked at the 58 properties advertised on the service: of those 58, 24 were owner occupied. 2 properties were only available until December, and one property was a full year lease (52 weeks). Removing those three we were left with 55 suitable properties. The cheapest weekly rent on offer was €65 per week in an owner-occupied house off Barrack Street, with electricity, gas, water & wifi included. It should be noted that the listing did not state for how long the lease would be, nor if the student could stay there over the weekends. The most expensive properties were two owner-occupied houses, both costing around €170 a week. Both properties’ rent included gas, water, Wi-Fi & cleaning, though one also included electricity costs, while the other property offered free meals. The average cost for rent per week was €125.40. To provide adequate contrast, the national average for student rent in 2013 was approximately €79.15 per week, though it should be noted that that 2013 figure is skewed by the generally higher cost of rent in Dublin.

The major issue, it seems, is that though the market for suitable student accommodation has risen dramatically over the last few years, the supply has yet to respond. No purpose-built student apartment complexes have been built in years. And though new builds have begun, namely the property on the site of the former Muskerry Railway Station on the Western Road, progress is slow. A proposed site in Denroches Cross (The Lough), which would house 350 students, has been on the receiving end of a dedicated campaign from local residents to stop the project before it begins, with a reported 200 people attending a protest in the carpark of the Lough Church. When Cork City Council discussed a potential site for a 348-person apartment complex in Bishopstown near Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Fine Gael Councillor John Buttimer described the development of student accommodation in the city as “ethnic cleansing” of local communities. 

New developments are urgently needed. Outside of the development on the Western Road, planning permission has been sought to convert the former Square Deal furniture store on Washington Street to student accommodation. It is hoped that the development on the site, which was purchased for approx. €5m at auction, will provide between 200-300 more beds, but that will likely not be open for another two-three years.