16 April, 2018 - Government exceeds targets on student accommodation

Government on track to deliver 21,000 purpose built student accommodation units by 2024. 

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., and the Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English T.D., today released the end Q1, 2018 progress report on the National Student Accommodation Strategy. 

The National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS) is the Government’s plan to increase the supply of student accommodation and increase the take-up of digs accommodation. 

The Government set a target to build an extra 7,000 bed spaces by the end 2019 and a total of 21,000 additional beds by 2024. We are currently on track to meet, if not exceed, this target. 

As of the end Q1 2018:

  • 2,687 purpose built student accommodation bed spaces had been completed.
  • 5,842 further bed spaces were under construction.
  • 8,636 additional bed spaces had planning permission granted.
  • 917 were at the planning permission application stage. 

These projects combine to a total of 18,082 purpose built student accommodation bed spaces. 5,260 of these will be complete, or are due for completion, by the end of 2018. 

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., said, “Ensuring there is sufficient accommodation for our third level students is an important priority for this government. The growth of the student accommodation sector not only delivers benefits to higher education institutions in attracting and retaining students, but also plays an important part in addressing the national accommodation shortage. 

“My Department will continue to work with colleagues in the Department of Housing, the Union of Students in Ireland, the HEIs and industry to ensure that suitable accommodation is delivered and that blockages in the system are reduced insofar as possible.” 

Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., said, “We face continued growth in student numbers at third level and we need to ensure that availability of accommodation is not seen as a barrier to accessing education. 

“It is heartening to see that the public and private sectors can work together to deliver badly needed student accommodation. I have turned the sod myself on projects where I can see the ability of purpose built student accommodation to add to the rejuvenation of areas. It is important that we ensure that not only are students seen as part of a thriving local community, but that students themselves value their membership of that community.”

Minister of State Damien English T.D., said, “I am delighted to see that there is a strong pipeline of student accommodation projects moving through the planning system and onwards to constructed and occupied developments. I am confident that the recent reforms undertaken to our planning system including the fast-track planning procedure to An Bord Pleanála for student accommodation projects and the availability of development finance through the Housing Finance Agency will continue to assist in future growth. Importantly, the provision of these new dedicated student developments will have the effect of increasing the availability of accommodation in the wider rental sector.”   

Notes for the Editor  

The National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS) is a key action in the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland:  Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.  It was developed by the Department of Education and Skills, together with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as key stakeholders to introduce measures to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of Purpose Built Student Accommodation. 

The National Student Accommodation Strategy includes 8 key targets and 27 actions to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of Purpose Built Student Accommodation and an increase in take-up of digs accommodation. The NSAS complements the various initiatives being taken by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to increase housing supply. 

The strategy has been designed to ensure that there is an increased supply of student accommodation to meet future demand from both domestic and international students attending our Higher Education Institutions. Since its launch in July 2017, the NSAS has made great advances in the key actions targeted at the outset. 

Another key action of this strategy is to encourage the uptake of traditional Student Accommodation Bed Spaces in Private Homes ‘Digs’ accommodation, which will relieve pressure on the private rental market. The DES and the DHPCLG will continue to support the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) #HomesforStudy campaign with a view to increasing the take up of Digs accommodation. A total of €160,000 in funding has been committed to USI which will finance a full-time Student Housing Officer, the #homesforstudy campaign and training for Student Accommodation Officers. 

The target set out in the National Student Accommodation Strategy in July 2017, aimed to increase the number of students taking up accommodation in Digs to 4,000 by 2019. The 2017 USI #HomesforStudy campaign successfully housed over 2,000 students. In addition to this, they have distributed over 130,000 flyers advertising homes.usi.ie, a unique website which alongside advertising rooms for rent, provides information and advice for both students who are seeking accommodation and homeowners who are interested in renting a room. The campaign had an exceptionally large reach on social media, extending to a readership of over 55 million. 

The National Student Accommodation Strategy is available at http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/National-Student-Accommodation-Policy.pdf 

The National Student Accommodation Strategy outlines a broad policy framework for the development of appropriate on-campus and off-campus student accommodation in response to specified needs and having regard to delivery mechanisms and the availability of suitably located and affordable sites. The Strategy is designed to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of PBSA to reduce the demand for accommodation in the private rental sector by both domestic and international students attending our HEIs.    

Current and Projected Student Numbers

Currently, all indicators point to a significant increase in full-time students attending publicly funded HEIs for the next decade. In terms of increased demand, the DES has previously indicated the potential for the number of full-time enrolments in DES aided HEIs is estimated to increase by 27% by 2030.  

Demand for Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)

At the launch of the National Student Accommodation Strategy the number of bed spaces, owned by both publicly funded HEIs and private organisations, suitable for student accommodation was estimated to be 34,558. This included 1,117 PBSA bed spaces (646 HEI, 471 Private) which had been completed since the commencement of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan in July 2016. 

Future bed space development is based on data provided by HEIs and private developers and is in addition to data compiled by both the HEA and Construction Information Services (CIS) from public records held in relation to PBSA developments which have sought planning permission. 

There is a significant pipeline of PBSA developments coming on-stream nationally. 5,842 additional bed spaces are currently under construction. A further 8,636 bed spaces have been granted planning permission but have not yet commenced construction. In addition to these future developments, 917 bed spaces have been applied for and are awaiting planning permission. 

A further 8 developments are in pre-planning consultation with An Bord Pleanála under the fast-track planning procedure for strategic housing developments under the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016. 

Rebuilding Ireland includes a target to deliver 7,000 additional bed spaces by 2019 and the data suggests that this will be exceeded if all identified projects proceed as anticipated. 

It should be noted that these projections only include private sector developments where planning permission has been applied for. The DES and the DHPLG are aware of various announcements of potential project developments by private developers however, until such time as planning permission is applied for in respect of these developments, it is not possible to accurately record the detailed data.