Increased availability of dedicated student accommodation can relieve pressure arising in the wider rental sector from students looking to meet their accommodation needs. By extension, this increases the overall housing stock, which in turn assists in addressing wider housing supply issues, providing capacity for other accommodation to be made available to provide solutions for others seeking housing, including households at risk of becoming homeless.
To support and drive increased student accommodation delivery, my Department has implemented several measures under the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, including fast-tracking planning applications directly to An Bord Pleanála for student accommodation projects of 200 or more bed spaces, and facilitating low-cost funding availability from the Housing Finance Agency to the higher education institutes specifically for student accommodation projects. Applications for more than 3,000 units are before An Bord Pleanála at present.
Furthermore, in fulfilment of Action 4.7 of Rebuilding Ireland, the national student accommodation strategy was developed and launched in July by my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, along with the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, and me, in close consultation with my Department, with key targets and actions to support the student accommodation sector.
The combination of these measures will allow for the freeing up of dwellings in the general rental market as students are facilitated to move towards purpose-built student accommodation units, giving other households in the rental sector a better chance to access rental accommodation.
To give Deputy O'Sullivan an idea of the figures, since we launched Rebuilding Ireland in 2016, an additional 2,606 purpose-built student beds have become available to the market; a little over 4,000 are under construction today; planning was lodged for over 4,500 recently; and going through the planning process at present, including some in respect of which planning has been granted, are over 4,500. We are greatly increasing capacity in purpose-built student accommodation, and rightly so. I know there are difficulties of over-concentration in some areas, but some of our actions in the action plan are dealing with that, trying to blend in student accommodation with communities. We are working hard on that too because we want to increase direct build of student accommodation, but in a sustainable way for communities.