NAMA criticise UCD Students’ Union housing proposals

A spokesperson for the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) has criticised UCDSU’s call for the release of properties held by the bank.

A statement sent to The University Observer last night cites a misunderstanding of NAMA’s relation to the properties in question. “It is a common misconception that NAMA owns individual properties such as houses or apartments.  It does not. Like any bank,  NAMA owns loans which are secured, in turn, by individual properties but is not the owner of those properties.” The statement says that for this reason “it is not in NAMA’s powers to ‘release’ properties to accommodate students.”

The statement also challenges UCDSU’s claim that vacant NAMA properties are contributing to price inflation in the housing market, saying that “It should also be noted that the vast majority of residential units (houses or apartments) which are linked to loans held by NAMA are fully occupied already rather than lying vacant.”

UCDSU have responded by saying that they “never insinuated that NAMA owned any properties” and were “merely calling for them to ensure that all potential properties even at processing stage are made available to the market on a short term rental basis.”

Regarding availability of vacant NAMA properties, UCDSU have also said “We believe that all residences connected to NAMA loans should be made available not just ‘the vast majority’ as they have stated.”

UCDSU call for relief measures to alleviate student housing crisis

In a statement released today, the UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) has put forward proposals aimed at offering relief and stimulating growth in the student accommodation market.

UCDSU is calling for the re-introduction of the Section 50 tax relief scheme. The scheme, which allowed investors or Universities to claim up to 90% tax relief against the rent they collect, was phased out in 2012 as part of a Government plan to ensure stability in the property market.

‘We are calling on the Government to re-introduce this scheme in the forthcoming budget’ explained Feargal Hynes, UCDSU President. While the reasoning for removing the scheme in 2012 is understood by the union, Hynes believes that the situation has since changed greatly and that the student accommodation market is now in crisis.

The statement argues that the re-introduction of the scheme can offer stimulus to the market. “This scheme, we believe will allow students in the future to rent affordable, clean and safe housing while providing a secure option for both developers and those investors who want a consistent return on their investments” Hynes explained.

UCDSU has also called on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to release houses in the vicinity of universities to alleviate pressure on students looking for accommodation in these high demand areas.  Hynes stated that “with the amount of housing left vacant by virtue of the fact that they are in NAMA, this necessarily inflates the price of both the rental and sales market.”

Hynes concluded: “We are therefore calling on NAMA to release these houses onto the market. Even if they are specifically for the student market this will have the effect of taking these students out of the normal rental market in Dublin thus hopefully deflating the price for both the student and normal market.’

The statement points to a growing concern that the ongoing student housing crisis will affect Ireland’s education reputation internationally, citing the Government’s intentions to increase the amount of international students to 25,000 by 2015 coupled with increased numbers of Irish students carrying on to third level.

UCD Students’ Union to launch wellbeing-themed arts festival

UCD Students’ Union (SU), in association with UCD Ents, are to launch a new arts festival on campus this September. The event, dubbed Mind, Body and Soul, will take place in the Student Centre Quad from September 23rd to 25th.

The festival will focus on promoting student wellbeing, including mental and physical health. Each day of the festival’s three days will be themed to promote a different aspect of wellbeing with “mind”, “body” and “soul” themed days.

Speaking to The University Observer, UCDSU President Feargal Hynes said that the festival is about “positive mental health. It’s about looking after yourself, and it’s about building a community on campus, especially on residences.”

According to Hynes, much of the festival’s content will be provided by collaboration with UCD’s student societies and sports’ clubs, as well as with various national arts festivals. Hynes has noted that the event is “strictly a non-alcoholic festival” and that all features of the festival are to be “absolutely free”.

UCDSU are currently seeking sponsorship for the festival, though Hynes has indicated that much of the funding will be provided by treating the festival as a consolidation of smaller, faculty-specific wellbeing initiatives usually held by UCDSU.

Hynes is optimistic that the festival will be “very successful this year”, but expects that it will be “even more successful in the coming years as it develops”.

UPDATE: UCDSU have announced further details of the festival’s events, which will include an outdoor cinema, a silent disco and art exhibitions, as well as the chance for students to try out Lau Gar, Yoga and touch rugby. Students are also promised a “puppy cuddling” event.

Collaborations with mental health organisations will be “a key component of the festival”. UCDSU Welfare Officer Maeve DeSay has said the event will bring in “a number of mental health organizations who will be there to talk to students about looking after themselves and being able to know how to spot the warning signs amongst their friends.”

Montrose Student Accommodation unavailable for September move in

 

A development delay of approximately two months has resulted in students being unable to move into new student accommodation currently being developed on the site of the old Montrose Hotel.

The €22.5 million project, which will see the former hotel converted into privately owned student accommodation, was due to near completion this month, with some work due to continue throughout the autumn months.

Speaking to The University Observer, UCDSU  President Feargal Hynes said the union was informed that that 59 of the 166 rooms in the complex would not be available by the start of  term in September.

While the situation is not ideal at this time of year, when accommodation is already in short supply, Hynes is confident in the response of  Ziggurat, the management company behind the accommodation.

‘From the beginning the management team has been very open and good in dealing with the delays faced by students. They fully understand the issues facing students in the coming weeks’ explained Hynes. While work continues on the Montrose site students are to be housed in accommodation around the city centre, the cost of which will be covered by the company.

While the issue regards student accommodation owned by an external body, and thus outside the Students Union jurisdiction, Hynes has stressed that the union is available to assist students when an issue is raised. Last night Hynes opened the SU’s accommodation email account for those requiring assistance to contact them.

Update:

In statement sent to The University Observer on Monday morning Georgina Wade, property manager for the Montrose accommodation, explained that despite the company’s best intentions work on the complex has been delayed. ‘Despite our best efforts, the opening of two floors of the Montrose Student Residence will be delayed, due to an unanticipated level of work required to bring a very old building up to the high standards we demand’ explained Wade.

Students have been made aware of the current situation and also informed of the compensation package that has been put in place according to Wade. The compensation package made available includes first month free rent, €200 per week compensation, alternative accommodation paid for by Ziggurat and a year’s subscription to their choice of a music or movie service.

Wade concluded: ‘We’re confident that we can resolve the issue quickly, and to everyone’s satisfaction. We consulted with the Students Union in UCD, and the Accommodation Officer, and both were more than satisfied with the offers we are making to the affected students.’

 

UCD students hospitalised by ‘bad cocktail of drugs’

Updated at 9:02am

Several UCD students have been hospitalised after taking a cocktail of amphetamines and LSD, called scuzz, at an end of exams party.

Following the incident, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) were approached by An Garda Siochana to issue a safety warning to its members warning that a tainted cocktail of drugs was in circulation and that they should exercise caution.

The statement read: “Several students have been taken into hospital last night after taking a bad cocktail of drugs that may have included amphetamines and LSD.

“The Gardai are worried that fatalities may occur if this batch is not taken out of circulation.”

Furthermore, the Irish Times are reporting that this represents the sixth such incident this week that Gardai have had to deal with, as a veterinary student was arrested in the Grafton Street area and taken to hospital for displaying extreme behaviour.

The nature of the incidents and their apparent connection has led to an investigation being launched into the source of the drugs.

Students who may have any information in relation to the incident have been appealed to contacted the drug unit on 01 6669200, or contact UCDSU.

SU candidates wary of losing Law students’ votes

— Law students must vote in either Quinn during the day or Newman in the evening
— No evening polling to take place on first day of voting

UCD Law students will not be able to cast votes in the new Sutherland School of Law during this year’s UCD Students’ Union (SU) elections. Instead, Law students will have to place their votes in the Quinn School of Business on the second day of polling, Thursday April 3rd, between 9.30am and 5.15pm, or in the Newman Building between the hours of 6pm and 9pm on the same day.

There will also be no polling taking place in the Newman Building at all during the first day of the elections, Wednesday April 2nd. Traditionally, all faculties have been allowed to vote in the Newman Building in the evenings of both days of polling in order to accommodate those who are unable to vote during the day.

Voting for the UCDSU elections will take place on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, with the votes expected to be counted on Friday. Students of the Business Postgraduate, Architecture or Engineering faculties are the only ones who will be permitted to vote on the first day of polling.

Welfare and Equality Officer hopeful and fourth year Law student, Rebek’ah McKinney-Perry, has claimed that the decision to take polling out of the Sutherland School of Law “has no basis in logic”.

Meanwhile, Amy Fox, who is also a fourth year Law student and is running for the position of Undergraduate Education Officer, has described the decision as a disappointment. “Last year marked one of the lowest voter turnouts for UCDSU elections and over the past year, the Union have placed a huge emphasis on greatly improving this year’s turnout… Surely the best way to encourage voting is to ensure the opportunity is available in all buildings.”

In reference to last year’s low turnout, McKinney-Perry said that, “surely reducing polling times and completely disenfranchising an entire portion of the student body is contrary to that aim [of increasing voter numbers]. The Returning Officer made the decision on the basis that Quinn is right beside Sutherland but by that rationale so is the Engineering Building or the Newman Building.

“After speaking with the Students’ Union President Mícheál Gallagher, the decision to reduce the polling times is not a financial one. It was made solely by the Returning Officer and it is a decision I am very disappointed with. The precedent is there that Law students were able to vote in their building which previously was Roebuck but now with the new Sutherland School, there is a lot more space to set up a polling station so this decision has no basis in logic.”

UCDSU Returning Officer, Morgan Shelley, could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.