The Dublin City Council CEO is facing criticism for “dismissive and sarcastic” comments about student accommodation.
It comes after a number of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) developments in Dublin were granted permission to be used for short-term throughout the academic year this year.
UCD Students Union (UCDSU) President wrote to Mr Keegan warning that the beds were needed for students and not to boost the profits of private accommodation providers.
In his reply today, Mr Keegan criticised the union for failing to object to the change of use planning application in time and noted that Dublin City Council does not need to “undertake extensive stakeholder engagement” before making planning decisions.
— Ruairí Power (@RuairiPower_) October 11, 2021
“It is unfortunate that UCSU did not participate in the planning process in respect of these particular applications; however, it is not the city council’s fault that that you appear to have been unaware of how the planning system works,” he wrote.
He went on to suggest that student unions should build their own accommodation if they believe excessive profits are being made.
“If you believe that excess profits are being made in the PBSA market, I am surprised the student’s union has not entered the market itself and provided lower-cost student accommodation for its members,” he said.
Fully agree with @UCDSU. Student accommodation must be for students. Students raised this with @DarraghOBrienTD & myself & Darragh issued a circular to ensure this. Lots of work underway & needed to make improvements. Dismissive & sarcastic comments don’t help https://t.co/Vn1JxYqyVt
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) October 11, 2021
In a tweet this evening, the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris criticised Mr Keegan for his “dismissive and sarcastic comments.”
He said he fully agrees with UCDSU that student accommodation should be for students.
UCDSU President Ruairí Power told Newstalk that the change of use decision made no sense with the full return to campus on the cards.
“They expected less people on campus,” he said.
“I don’t understand where they got that from, given the Department of Higher Education were throughout the summer, planning for a full return to campus.
“So, it required a very rudimentary level of basic research and a bit of common sense to determine there was going to be demand for student accommodation.
“To grant permission for the entire year for short-term tourist lets in order to protect the revenues of the company, I think runs contrary to the public good and the needs for students who are desperate for accommodation.”
I’m not sure which is worse about Owen Keegan’s response, the stupidity or the arrogance.
This is not an acceptable way for a public official to respond to the rightful anger of students & their unions at the student accommodation crisis. https://t.co/s6kbjB7vqS
— Eoin Ó Broin (@EOBroin) October 11, 2021
He said Mr Keegan's response was "not good enough."
“I don’t think that falls under what should be an acceptable quality of leadership from someone running the largest most influential local authority n the country,” he said.
“It is not good enough.”
Mr Keegan has also faced criticism from Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin who labelled the comments 'stupid' and 'arrogant.'
Meanwhile Labour housing spokesperson, Senator Rebecca Moynihan said they were 'snide, dismissive and not worthy of someone who heads up a planning authority.'
Snide, dismissive and not worthy of someone who is heads up the planning authority
Dubliners want a vibrant, diverse Dublin not just a property developer version of what that should be, allowed to change the rules when it suits them re PBSA https://t.co/iyJPRxxgtu
— Rebecca Moynihan (@RebeccaMoy) October 11, 2021
Social Democrats Councillor Cat O’Driscoll called for a special meeting of the council to discuss the comments.