Tuesday, 7 March 2017
Department of Education and Skills
213. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to outline his plans to combat the accommodation crisis for students attending UCD in 2017-18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11483/17]
215. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills to outline the timeframe for the increase in student accommodation for students attending UCD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11485/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 213 and 215.
Alleviating the housing crisis is a cross-Government priority. Accordingly, my colleague Mr. Simon Coveney T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, on 19 July 2016 published “Rebuilding Ireland – an Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness”, following Government approval of this comprehensive and ambitious Plan. The full plan can be accessed at: .
My Department worked closely with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in developing this Plan, with a specific focus on student accommodation, and I very much welcome the commitments contained in the plan and I look forward to working with colleagues on a cross-Departmental basis to ensure that the commitments contained in the Plan are implemented as soon as practicable.
As outlined in the Action Plan for Education 2017 which was published on 6 February 2017 and in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan, my officials have been working closely with officials from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and with other relevant stakeholders with a view to implementing all of the relevant actions in relation to student accommodation that were detailed in Rebuilding Ireland. This includes the development of a national student accommodation strategy which is due for completion in Q2 2017 and which will set out a broad framework for delivery of an enhanced level of student accommodation.
In addition to this an inter-departmental steering group on student accommodation has been established which is chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of my Department. This steering group is comprised of officials from my Department in addition to representatives from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Finance, the Higher Education Authority, the Irish Universities Association, the Technological Higher Education Association, the Union of Students in Ireland, the University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin and the National Treasury Management Agency.
Turning specifically to UCD, I welcomed the launch of a new Student Accommodation Block in UCD in September 2016 which provided an additional 350 new student accommodation bed spaces on campus bringing total student accommodation now available on campus to 3,164.
The university also plans to develop this area of the campus as a vibrant residential sector and hopes to double resident numbers to just over 6,000 in the coming years.
UCD also provides a dedicated off-campus support office to its students to give advice and actively identify and register private individuals and companies who are interested in renting out rooms, apartments, and houses to UCD students. Students can also seek advice from their Students Union, and other state organisations such as the PRTB and Threshold.
In addition to this, €30,000 was provided to USI by the HEA to fund their 2016 #HomesForStudy campaign. A Final Report on the 2016 campaign published by USI showed that at least 2,258 students accessed “DIGS” accommodation directly as a result of the campaign spearheaded by USI. This is a significant win – win situation, as students get accommodation and homeowners can now earn up to €14,000 a year tax - free providing this service. The Government provided for an increase in the ceiling for exemption from income tax under the Rent-a-Room scheme in Budget 2017. The ceiling has increased from €12,000 to €14,000 from 2017.
Funding for a full-time Student Housing Officer for the 16/17 academic year has also been provided by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to the Union of Students in Ireland.