State to invest millions to help universities build thousands of student apartments

The State is poised to invest millions to help universities build thousands of student apartments.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said he plans to bring new proposals to Cabinet soon that would see the State part-funding university-led student housing schemes around the country.

Five universities have planning permissions in place for up to 4,000 units but for various reasons, mostly financial, they have been unable to embark on construction.

“What we’re trying to do is identify the viability gap and plug it,” said Mr. Harris. “It is a sizable investment that will run into millions.

“We are in a housing crisis. It’s just not sustainable that we have planning permissions for student accommodation not activated.”

He was speaking in Cork, where he announced a near-€100m investment in three significant third-level and further education projects.

He was briefed by Cork City Council earlier on the level of student apartment-building in the city, where commencement notices have been issued on schemes that will deliver around 1,900 student beds.

He described that as “encouraging” but said it was private-sector led, and he now wants to find ways to unlock the university-led developments with active planning permission.

Despite the fact that there was an increase in student accommodation this year, Mr Harris said the students who returned to college full-time this September faced “a perfect storm” with a full return to college since Covid and wider housing pressures compounded by the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

But it does highlight to me the point that I don’t want us to ever find ourselves as reliant on the private market again, and that’s why I think it’s very attractive, sustainable, and sensible to try and get our colleges building.

It has also been confirmed that technological universities can now access the State borrowing framework to build student accommodation and his department is engaging with the sector to encourage them to bring forward proposals.

A 674-bed student accommodation scheme built by the University of Galway should be ready by next September, and UCC’s sixth purpose-built student accommodation complex, a 255-bed scheme at the former Crow’s Nest site in Cork city, is nearing completion.

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