Fears mount over student accommodation crisis and scams

Ireland’s attraction to international students is being eroded by the scarcity of accommodation and high costs of renting, the government has been warned.

Interest in studying in Ireland has increased steadily since the Brexit referendum in 2016 and overseas student numbers have returned to their pre-pandemic levels. International students are worth €2.38 billion (US$2.47 billion) to the Irish economy, according to consultants Indecon.

However, a survey of 465 students carried out by the Irish Council for International Students shows that two-thirds said their mental health had been affected by the accommodation crisis.

Fourteen percent said they were subjected to an accommodation scam, with less than one-third reporting it to the Gardaí (Irish police).

The Gardaí in the country’s second biggest city, Cork, recently issued a warning about scams following an incident involving a French student.

The student was put in touch with a man through social media who claimed he was the landlord of a property for rent. After speaking to him, she transferred €3,000 to his bank account. When she arrived in Cork she discovered that the man to whom she paid the money wasn’t the landlord of the property and there was no room for rent there.

Embassy advice

The French embassy in Dublin has taken the unusual step of posting advice on its website about accommodation difficulties in Ireland. “The strong demand and the saturation of the rental market have led to a sharp increase in rents, which are currently much more expensive than in Paris, including shared accommodation,” it said.

The embassy also called for “great vigilance in the face of the risk of scams on the various ad sites”. It urged French people planning to come to Ireland to allow sufficient time to search for accommodation, saying this can take several weeks.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has warned that if the government does not adequately address the problem it would contact other embassies to encourage them to display similar warnings in an effort to ensure that international students are fully aware of the crisis being faced by students.

Threats to reputation

Former USI president, and now executive director of the Irish Council for Overseas Students, Laura Harmon said the country’s unprecedented housing crisis was undermining Ireland’s reputation abroad. “The accommodation crisis issue will take years to fix, just like Ireland’s reputation abroad, if actions aren’t taken now”.

A similar warning has been issued by Griffith College, a private provider which has on-campus accommodation and more than 2,000 overseas students. Kevin Geoghegan, its director of the International Office, said that this autumn the college advised students against travelling to Ireland unless long-term residential accommodation had been secured.

On Tuesday 29 November Higher Education Minister Simon Harris secured government approval for state funding for student accommodation for the first time in return for affordability commitments on rent.

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