Questions raised over the university accommodation plans

THE cost of on campus accommodation is likely to see further increases next year of between 2-3%. Rates have already been increased by 40% over the previous four years. The reasons previously given for the increases were for the development of new accommodation and the maintenance of the current structures.Speaking to the University Observer, UCD Students’ Union President Conor Viscardi noted that “there’s still a huge accumulative amount of money that students pay that has been progressively increased over the last, I think its three or four years.”He explained that the union were not expecting a decrease in the near future but that they hoped “at the very least that its capped because that’s the way it is going to be, honestly in the next year.”The average cost of on campus catered accommodation in 2013 was €776 per month. This year it has risen to €1,145. All residences have already seen a 7% increase this year.The previous increases in costs were said to cover the costs of new developments, which saw the opening of the Ashfield complex over the summer. This added over 350 new beds to campus.A Residential Assistant speaking to the Observer, however, raised questions over how effective the spending had been: “If they took one Ashfield apartment and divided it into two apartments and made it like standard student living, you’d fit more students in as opposed to having luxury student living.”The source, who did not wish to be named, did commend the quality of residences, yet went on to query the impact of the increases. When asked about why they thought costs had risen, the source explained “I don’t really know why to be honest… the services are the same.”They went on to question the residence policy that maintains competitive prices with the local areas. This was something also noted by Viscardi who stated that “because of the prime real estate, the value of the real estate, located in D4, that has a huge implication on how much contractors charge for building the residences,” and that as a result “it has been argued, that’s why the residences have been so expensive to match local prices. That’s what we’ve been communicated. I wouldn’t agree with that, I think that’s disappointing.”A plan for 3,000 new beds has been outlined in the university’s strategic campus development plan released over the summer. The plans outline that there would be a significant growth in campus accommodation with numerous structures being built in the green areas between Merville, Belgrove and Roebuck residences. Each building is expected to be between 5-10 stories.Viscardi also noted that while the campus development plan stretches over 10 years, the university is hoping to fast track their plans for accommodation. He attributed this to the desire “to focus on the construction of on campus accommodation in light of the accommodation crisis.”The university has not yet submitted any planning applications regarding building more accommodation.The funding of the new developments is expected to come from government investment and low interest loans. Building of the new accommodation is likely to be delayed until government funding is decided.