One group of Brazilian students, according to RTÉ News, was living in a disused nightclub on Dublin’s Leeson Street for two months before they were then relocated to a “crowded and mouldy flat” nearby – and paying €400 a month for the displeasure.
“I’m from Brazil. It’s a third world country. So I never expected to meet this here. I never expected to be exploited in this way. For me it’s a bad surprise,” Amanda Nogueira said.
“They want students to come here to work and to turn the money. But we don’t have any space to live,” she continued.
“I think just the because of the pandemic, the problem has just been kind of magnetised,” David Russell, Chair of the Progressive College Network, told The PIE News.
“There’s simply not enough out there”
“The schools are delighted to welcome back the students now we’re at the tail end of the pandemic, and most schools try to do as much as possible, in regards organising accommodation,” he commented.
“We certainly we do our best to try to source accommodation where we can. And then unfortunately, there’s simply not enough out there,” Russell added.
The new space that Nogueira and other Brazilian students have been moved is a two bedroom flat, which is being shared between 10 people – and the room she is in houses six bunk beds – directly against Ireland’s 1966 Housing Act.
“A house shall… be deemed to be overcrowded at any time when the number of persons ordinarily sleeping in the house and the number of rooms therein either are such that any two of those persons…not being persons living together as husband and wife, must sleep in the same room,” the Act states.
It also decrees that the free air space in any room used as a sleeping location should be no less than four hundred cubic feet – but that overcrowding shall be construed accordingly.
The issue is not a new one. The PIE spoke to László Molnárfi, chair of leftist student social progress group Students4Change, who said he’d met a student who was homeless on his “very first day in Dublin”.
“Many of us, both EU and non-EU international students, are forced into expensive student accommodation… due to not knowing the private rental market when we arrive in Dublin,” said Molnárfi.
“It is never the college, the course of the Gardaí that protect students from evictions – but direct action community power like CATU, Ireland’s national tenants union.
“The government’s complicity cannot be overstated either as they transformed our universities into for-profit business through decades of underfunding,” Molnárfi claimed.
The Irish Council for International Students and the Union of Students in Ireland have previously warned that the crisis in student accommodation is forcing many international students into overcrowded accommodation. Other reports have suggested that the problem is not limited to Dublin only, with students in Limerick and Galway experiencing issues.
Russell said that schools could try to communicate better with students, to let them now what their expectations should be or could be.
“I think maybe if the government could set up some kind of an office, so that if a tenant was in a scenario where they felt they were being treated badly, for example in a situation where there’s six, seven, eight, nine or 10 people in a room, then they could contact this body.
“The main push has to come from the top, because if there’s nobody driving the quality, it amounts to this crazy stuff that’s happening.”
One point made regarding issues with the housing crisis, especially for international students, was that lots of people who are tenants are subletting their rooms without the knowledge of their landlords.
Another issue was the landlords themselves – “greedy” landlords, as put by Molnárfi, who aim to make as much money off vulnerable overseas students as possible.
“If there’s nobody driving the quality, it amounts to this crazy stuff that’s happening”
“I think the Airbnb scenario is something that should be looked at, certainly in cities. There are a lot of Airbnb properties that are just sitting there waiting for short term leases where, where possibly they could be made to house students,” Russell noted.
“I also know for a fact that there are countless properties lying idle around the country. Some of them are. Some of them are derelict,” he added.
Of course, these buildings would need to be in a much more fit state to house students that the Leeson Street bar where Nogueira and her compatriots had to stay.
“We are very sad about how students are treated here, since it is immigrants who sustain this country’s economy,” an unnamed student who stayed with Nogueira said.