I propose to take Questions Nos. 398 and 399 together.
The National Student Accommodation Strategy (NSAS) was published in 2017 and is designed to support the delivery of an increased level of supply of purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) by reducing planning barriers for public and private sector developers of student accommodation and seeking to address financing barriers for our higher education institutions. The aim is to reduce the cost to the student by ensuring that there is a sufficient level of accommodation to meet future demand. The target as set out in Rebuilding Ireland and the NSAS is the provision of 7,000 bed spaces by end 2019 and a total of 21,000 additional PBSA beds by 2024. The 2019 target has been surpassed, with 8,346 bed spaces completed by the end of the year.
Following significant rent increases in two privately run PBSA complexes in 2018, the Department of Education and Skills worked in close co-operation with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to pass the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2019. The Act contains provisions designed to ensure that students residing in student-specific accommodation in Rent Pressure Zones will not see rent increases of more than 4% per annum. Registered students and licensors may also now avail of the dispute resolution facilities provided by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). The RTB has a dedicated section on their website - https://www.rtb.ie/renting-in-college - providing advice to student renters.
Students who are renting private accommodation under a lease are entitled to the same legal protections as any other tenant. Their tenant rights are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act (2004, as amended).
Responding to student accommodation issues is a significant matter of concern for myself and for my colleague the Minister for Housing, Local Government and I have asked my Department to continue to engage with his officials to monitor and report to me on developments in the student accommodation sector.