UCDSU launches ‘Digs Drive’ in attempt to combat the student housing crisis

UCDSU leaflets commuters to promote the UCD Accommodation Pad, a service which connects UCD students with homeowners offering digs for the academic year.

UCDSU are leafleting at tram and LUAS stations across Dublin, in an effort to attract homeowners to sign up to the UCD Accommodation Pad, a service that puts UCD students in touch with vetted homeowners offering room rentals. The leaflets also promote the Union’s ‘Draft Digs Agreement’, a sample legal document that can be used for 5-day and 7-day lease agreements.

Since beginning this initiative on Monday morning UCDSU has seen a notable uptick in applications from homeowners to the Accommodation Pad, receiving over 20 new applications by lunchtime that same day. 

The idea for the ‘Digs Drive’ came about from a need to do something tangible to combat the current crisis in accommodation. In the words of UCDSU President, Molly Greenough, when speaking to the University Observer, “As a team we thought about what practical measures we could do in a short span of time to try to increase the number of beds available to UCD students.” The decision to focus on digs, specifically, was expanded upon by Welfare Officer Míde Níc Fhionnlaoich, “We’re doing digs because realistically it's the only thing that we can do on the ground. We can’t get landlords to rent out properties that they’re sitting on, we can’t reach those people, and what we’re trying to do is reach out to ordinary people who might have room in their house.”

The Drive is also serving to launch the Student Union’s ‘Draft Digs Agreement’, a document proposed by Nic Fhionnlaoich in her campaign earlier this year. As said by Geenough, “We’re acutely aware that the digs drive isn’t going to solve the housing crisis, nor are digs the safest form of accommodation, it’s often a very precarious living arrangement, which is why we included a draft licence to reside agreement on our website as well.” However, while the team are cognisant of the issues with digs, “It was enough on a practical note to try and increase the number of beds available, and to garner national attention to the accommodation crisis, [in] which it has been very successful in only the first day.”

Despite the known precarity of digs as a housing option, with there being no formal legal protections, the Union does currently feel that this drive is the only practical move forward that will see tangible effects in time for the new academic year.  “We’re at a crisis point when it comes to accommodation for students in Dublin.” said Nic Fhionnlaoich, “It’s been getting worse every year, certainly since I’ve started in college, and as far as anyone can remember, and with no meaningful government policy changes to stop it from getting worse.”

The initiative so far has seen success for the union. Campaigns and Engagement Officer, Robyn O’Keefe, feels hopeful about the outcome of this week's movements, “A lot of people are quite sympathetic, and even if they don’t have a room themselves they know someone who does”, and in the office “The phone keeps ringing”. The union reported between 20 and 25 homeowner applicants to the Accommodation Pad by lunchtime Monday. According to Greenough, “Those will be 25 students who will have some place to stay this year.”

The sabbatical team has leafleted Stephen’s Green LUAS station, Balally Luas station, Pearse Station, Lansdowne Road DART station, and Tara DART station at time of reporting.

For more information on the UCD Accommodation Pad, see https://www.ucdaccommodationpad.ie/Accommodation.