Writes News Editor: Samantha Calthrop
The cost of student accommodation for the year 2019/2020 has increased nationwide, with UCC introducing the highest price increase in Ireland. All five of UCC’s on-campus accommodation facilities— University Hall, Victoria Lodge, Castlewhite apartments, Victoria Mills, and Mardyke Hall– saw price increases between 10% and 11.5%, with the price range now €4029-€6179 yearly.
A spokesperson for UCC defended the decision, pointing out the effectiveness and relative cheapness of the university accommodation and the fact that accommodation prices were not raised between 2016 and 2018.
“UCC’s Campus Accommodation rates for 2019/2020 remain significantly below the level of privately-owned student accommodation in Cork City,” reads a statement by the University, “The increase in rates was necessary to ensure UCC is in a position to meet the attendant rise in costs for the ongoing maintenance and security of student accommodation.
“An ongoing refurbishment programme is also necessary to maintain the standard of facilities and to ensure student accommodation meets access and health and safety standards.”
The decision was condemned by the UCC Student’s Union, who have been pushing for lower prices in student accommodation and living costs. Last year, the Accommodation Rally for Affordable Housing— a joint protest by UCC and CIT— condemned the raising rent costs for students in Cork and elsewhere.
“UCC Students priorities are not founded in questions of refurbishments but instead in questions of whether they can or cannot afford to attend a college which they have earned a place in,” said UCCSU President Ben Dunlea, in response to the 2019-2020 rent increase. “We believe UCC should reconsider these increases and better align their priorities, in relation to housing, with those held by their students.”
The national cost increase has been condemned by several other bodies, including the National Union of Students in Ireland (USI). USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick said, “Student accommodation prices country-wide have taken a sinister hike towards unaffordability in the past few years, this past year in particular.”
The rent increase follows a 200% increase in the capitation fee announced earlier this year, which also drew criticism for increasing the financial pressure on students. Funding per student has dropped by 50% since the economic recession in 2008, and increases in capitation fees, accommodation costs, and exam resit fees have all raised issues in the past few years.
“Colleges don’t have enough funding and college accommodation is an income source. But students shouldn’t have to pay for that – colleges should stand up to the Government and demand more funding.” said social policy lecturer Rory Hearne at Maynooth University in a statement to the Irish Independent.
Rent increase caps of 4% for purpose-built student accommodation are set to be introduced from August 14 2019, holding student accommodation to similar standards as other rented properties, but the high increases are currently still legal.