With the recession causing housing prices to fall, Amy Wall, discusses whether campus accommodation is the place to live
If you had to choose one good thing about the recession, what would it be? Ladies: I hear you screaming “SALES!” in union. Pessimists: no, I haven’t actually lost my mind. Granted, within all the economic doom and gloom that is gracing the headlines of our papers day in and day out, there is still a small silver lining that can be found in the ominous black cloud that is the recession.
That silver lining is the fact that since September, the price of rent has steadily been on the decline. As all the estate agents in Ireland will tell you, it truly is a buyer’s market out there at present. This is fantastic news if you haven’t been too badly hit by recessionary cutbacks and are in the market for a new home. This is also incredibly good news if you’re a student, and have therefore been constantly stuck in a recession of your own since you began your degree.
Landlords are desperate to fill up vacant accommodation, which most definitely works in our favour. No longer are we students the scourge of rented dwellings. September 2009 saw us being welcomed, in fact, with open arms. The average price of rented accommodation around the UCD campus has dropped at least €100 per month – and many students now pay as little as €380, which is around the price we would have paid in 2003.
This is good going considering the majority of UCD students tend to live within reasonable walking/commuting distance of campus, with many residing in the infamous D4 postcode. The best thing is that with the decrease in rent prices, your money goes a lot further. €400 can get you decent accommodation: your own room, all mod cons, and actual internet access (if you’re really lucky).
Such decadence was almost unheard of for less than €600 back in the days when the Celtic Tiger roared loudly. Before we had to settle for the lowest of the low – the apartments that still thought it was the swinging sixties outside. We can all remember with terror the era of the run-down student house, with dubious stains on the floor and the obligatory shared bathroom, with a questionable green mould-like substance growing in the bottom of the shower.
Of course, as with the beginning of every academic year, affordable and chic accommodation tends to be snapped up incredibly quickly. From August onwards, an influx of returning students and a new wave of first year undergraduates compete for accommodation. It is a known fact that campus accommodation is an elusive thing; it is generally already full before you even know that you can apply for it.
People favoured campus accommodation for a number of reasons. For first years, it offered a chance to get to know people, make friends and really live the college experience (i.e. crawling out of bed and attending your 9am lecture in your pyjamas). For others, it offered convenience and a reasonable price. This year however, fewer people have opted for campus living.
Why? Well as the price of living off campus decreased steadily, the price of living on campus has increased, alienating many students. In fact, it seems that many students will not be returning to campus accommodation for a second semester. “I honestly just can’t afford it”: the words of one postgraduate student currently living in Glenomena.
The Glenomena on-campus accommodation complex is usually reserved for final and postgraduate students. This year, however, saw an increase in the number of first years being allowed to reside there, mainly because final and postgraduate students were opting to live off campus. A year’s residence in Glenomena will set you back €5,324, working out at a monthly rent of €532 – and that’s only for ten months. If you opt to live off campus, the average yearly rent is only €4,800 for a full twelve months. With off-campus accommodation offering lower prices – and indeed, better facilities – it is no surprise that many students are looking elsewhere for their abode.
“I plan to move out after this semester is over. We’re paying all this money and for what exactly? For the convenience of not having to get a bus to college in the morning? There’s no oven, the fridges are far too small for six people sharing, and the electricity meters eat money. I can’t find any perks,” stated a first year student who is also residing in the Glenomena residences.
With increasing registration fees, students are finding it hard enough to afford college itself – naturally they are going to flock to the accommodation that provides the best facilities for the cheapest prices. One has to wonder, if the price of accommodation off campus continues to drop with each academic year, will Glenomena, Roebuck, Merville and Belgrove soon become nothing more than ghost towns?
If UCD doesn’t want to turn into a completely dead campus, it’s time to stop ripping students off, and starting to offer us a fair deal. Accommodation is the first step in a long, long journey for Belfield.