Universities to get low interest loans to build 2,700 ‘affordable’ student beds

Simon Harris due to announce details of €434 million partnership between European Investment Bank and Housing Finance Agency

Universities are to get access to low interest loans to construct an estimated 2,700 beds in college campuses across the country over the coming years.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris is due to announce details of a €434 million partnership between the European Investment Bank and the Housing Finance Agency on Thursday.

It comes as many third level institutions complain that the cost of building accommodation is no longer economical, given rampant inflation in the construction sector. As a result, they have said the high cost of construction meant they could not offer new accommodation at an affordable rate to students.

Government officials say the new initiative will provide long-term financing to Irish higher education institutions at much lower rates to support the construction of new accommodation as well as the renovation of existing campus buildings to improve facilities and energy efficiency.


This scheme is backed by a 40-year €200 million European Investment Bank (EIB) loan. EIB backing will reduce financing costs for universities and, in turn, enable lower monthly rents for students living in new accommodation, say officials.

It will be open to all publicly-funded this level institutions to avail of loans.

Until now, institutes of technology or technological universities were barred from borrowing money. However, Government officials are finalising a new borrowing framework for the sector.

It is one reason why so many smaller higher education institutions have, historically, not provided on-campus accommodation and instead relied on the private sector to meet local demand.

The moves comes in the same month as students marched through Dublin city centre earlier to protest at “exorbitant” rents and to highlight the growing numbers commuting long distance or finding it difficult to make ends meet.

University leaders are also worried that difficulties accessing affordable accommodation mean more students are losing out on the college experience as they are forced to leave the campus to home in the evenings or work part-time to get by.

Mr Harris is expected to say on Thursday that the funding will boost access to affordable accommodation as well as housing availability in cities and towns across the country.

Officials say every student accommodation bed which is built frees up private rental accommodation in our biggest cities and towns.

The announcement on Thursday is separate to an initiative announced last year in which the Government agreed to intervene for the first time in the provision of student accommodation due to the acute shortages in the sector.

Under this scheme, the Government is part-funding the construction of more than 1,000 affordable beds at DCU, UL, Maynooth University and University of Galway.

It includes State funding of up to €31 million for around 560 student beds in Maynooth, Limerick and Galway. Last March, the Government approved further funding of up to €41m for more than 400 on-campus beds in DCU.

Thursday’s announcement is part of the wider Government housing strategy which set out more than 200 actions aimed at addressing the housing crisis.

The Housing for All strategy includes a pledge to “bring forward a range of options for State support to assist activation of additional new purpose-built student accommodation units” before the end of 2022.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent