SOME third-level students in Cork are commuting for up to five hours a day as they cannot afford what a student representative described as “extortionate” rent prices in the city.
Students are holding a sleepout at the Dáil to demand immediate and long-term solutions from the Government to help with the accommodation crisis.
Munster Technological University (MTU) Cork Students’ Union president Aisling O’Mahony will be attending the protest and sleeping outside the Dáil in a tent tonight to highlight the “crisis” and in solidarity with those who have been “let down” by the Government.
Ahead of the protest, Solidarity TD Mick Barry told the Dáil that students at MTU in Bishopstown are commuting hours a day because they cannot find accommodation.
“I don’t mean 10, 15, or 20 miles — I mean really long distances,” he said. “A lot of students are trekking down to Bishopstown from West Cork.
“A lot of students are trekking up to Bishopstown from other counties; from Kerry, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford, spending three hours a day, four hours a day, five hours a day in cars because of the housing crisis.”
Speaking to The Echo, Ms O’Mahony said there were over 150 houses in the Bishopstown area five years ago that regularly rented to MTU students. Today, the list of houses has decreased to less than 15.
“That’s approximately a decrease from 900 to 90 beds available to students in the last five years,” she said. “That’s in privately owned houses. These houses are now currently being occupied by young families or working professionals.
"My question now is where do we put the excess of the 810 students that now don’t have access to those houses?”
Ms O’Mahony said there are students that “have no option but to commute because they can’t afford the extortionate rates” for accommodation.
Deirdre Falvey, from MTU Student Services, said while they have lost a lot of private houses over the last number of years, there is some new purpose-built accommodation in the area.
For students that are waiting for accommodation, or undergoing long commutes, she said there are still some digs available slightly outside of Bishopstown as well as nightly rates in local hotels and B&Bs for students who may have less time on campus.
Meanwhile, University College Cork said it is working closely with students who engage with its accommodation and community life officer.
“UCC is acutely aware of the challenges facing students in securing accommodation, particularly first years,” a spokesperson said.
Student Unions across Ireland will be taking part in the protest outside the Dáil today.