Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2024: Second Stage

 

6:35 pm

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein)

Movement is definitely needed on facilitating the needs of students who are facing sky-high rents. Addressing the situation whereby students find themselves having to sign a contract that would lock them into paying for potentially unused accommodation for the summer months has been required for some time. Specifically, this Bill stipulates that specific student accommodation contracts cannot exceed 41 weeks. If a student requests to occupy the accommodation for a longer period, then they can request the landlord's agreement to do this.

Action on this is overdue in light of the impossible task many students face in what is a dysfunctional housing market. The Government has created a scenario in which vulture funds have got their claws into the student accommodation sector so much that they effectively make this type of accommodation unaffordable. In addition, the amount of purpose-built student accommodation that is controlled by vulture funds rivals the amount owned by universities. This shows you the road this Government has taken us on.

Granted, this Bill seeks to address instances in which landlords demand a full year's contract from students who do not need the full year but who are put in an impossible situation. I would also ask the Minister for clarity on contracts that are agreed during the course of the academic year, in other words, when the 41-week period has commenced. While the Bill provides for another measure to enable a student to terminate an agreement between May and October with 28 days' notice, no similar specifics are given about the 41-week period. If a student was to avail of accommodation in, say, December, would that student be required to enter a contract that would last 41 weeks, and therefore be subject to rent payments into and across the summer months?

In essence, more needs to be done. Deputy Mairéad Farrell brought forward an important Bill to get renters of digs accommodation essential rights and protections. Students need the substance of that Bill alongside the key aspects this one seeks to address. I do not know why the Government is cherry-picking in this regard. Students have a lot on their plates, and they need rental protections, affordable rents and the knowledge that somebody has their back. Essentially, we need a properly functioning housing market, not an investment fund's playground that puts tenants last on the list of priorities for them. We need a new approach because the Government, as shown, has failed, and the students are suffering for that. As has been said throughout this debate, we need vulture funds out of student accommodation and we need to build accommodation students can afford.

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