The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has made a submission to the Strategy for the Rented Sector. The Strategy will provide a vision of the role that the rental sector will play in the short, medium and long terms, as set out in Rebuilding Ireland. USI believes that it is crucial that affordable and secure rental accommodation is available for the needs of students in the private rental sector nationwide. According to students renting in the private rental sector, the most prevalent problems are: increasing difficulty to find accommodation; high, unaffordable rents, low quality accommodation, reluctance of landlords to rent to students; significant distances from college; vague deposit deductions without breakdowns as well as lack of written lease agreements and regulations.
In the housing market, students are competing with those who can pay higher rents and therefore are very often priced out or rejected by the landlords. This gives rise to homelessness, overcrowding and health & safety risks, with a wider impact on labour mobility and having a negative consequence on the functioning of the economy. According to the Eurostudent Survey V Report on the Social and Living Conditions of Higher Education Students in Ireland (2013) 35% of student population lived in private landlord’s property, which constituted the main student accommodation.
“The time is ripe to address the housing crisis setting a long-term goal and design short and mid-term measures to reach it,” Annie Hoey, USI President, said. “Policy-makers need to look at the needs of various groups of stakeholders and restore the sense of stability both in terms of affordability and availability of housing for all. Without adequate protection of the right to accommodation for students, we will sentence Ireland to socio-economic stagnation.”
The Strategy for the Rented Sector to which the USI provided their submission will be built upon four pillars: security, supply, standard and service. The USI proposed in the submission to include the following actions in the rental strategy.
- Exploring the feasibility of introducing necessary amendments to legislation to ensure the right to adequate housing for everyone
- Designing action towards changing the current Residential Tenancies Act to include renting a room (“digs”) as one of the types of tenancies.
- Introducing a system of rent regulation to provide greater certainty for student tenants and landlords
- To develop a coherent programme of conditional supply-side supports to increase availability of affordable rental housing, e.g. tax reliefs for renovation of vacant homes
- Proposing a diverse range of incentives for the landlords including, but not limited to, tax breaks. USI welcomes the rent-a-room scheme, but believes that it may lead to driving-up the rental prices, therefore USI suggests the introduction of brackets that will be aligned with the number of rooms that landlord provides.
- Introducing a nationwide intensive inspection programme for private rental accommodation that will be based on a RTB-quality label/certification.
- Introducing more points of contact for free of charge dispute resolution for students, along with a point of contact for USI’s officers to improve and facilitate the procedures.
- Introducing the Deposit Protection Scheme that will be managed and administered by RTB.
- Introducing a nationwide training programme for new landlords (also in digs), student accommodation officers and staff members of other relevant organisations with the usage of new technologies.
- Continuing supporting Union of Students in Ireland’s work to mobilise the landlords to free up the unused spaces in their households.
The submission in its entirety can be found on the USI website.