UL Student Life released the shocking findings from their Student Accommodation Survey on Thursday
By Riona Maguire
More than 35% of all University of Limerick students who still cannot find suitable accommodation are being forced to commute long distances, stay in hotels or sleep in cramped conditions in order to access their education.
UL Student Life (ULSI) released the findings from their Student Accommodation Survey this Thursday which includes testimonials from students who are being forced to sleep in their cars, use public showers and sleep in damp and mouldy living conditions.
Others have found themselves homeless or seeking emergency accommodation as the housing crisis worsens.
ULSL Communities Officer, Laura Corcoran, launched the survey in a bid to capture the impact the accommodation crisis is having on the wider student body.
ULSL President, Maeve Rutledge, presented these findings to Minister for Education, Simon Harris, as he met with representatives of student unions across Ireland last week.
Maeve Rutledge said: “The statistics speak for themselves; students of Ireland can no longer be ignored. We are hearing stories of students sleeping in cars and other students who are looking for somewhere to hide on campus to sleep at night-time to avoid long commutes. The impact of this crisis on the health and wellbeing of our students needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Over a quarter of over 1,200 students surveyed stated that they are still seeking accommodation, with one third of those being forced to commute simply because there is no accommodation available in Limerick.
This comes as the University of Limerick hit a record breaking 18,000 students this term, the highest number the University has ever had.
One student respondent said their physical health has been affected by damp living conditions and they have run out of options as we reach the middle of the semester: “I spent one week in a damp Airbnb room and I’m currently sick with a chest infection from it. I will have to resort to sleeping in my car in the college car parks from next week onwards as I can’t commute from Dublin every day.”
Limerick already has the highest number of student specific accommodation in the country, but students are pleading for more suitable, affordable student specific accommodation as the University population skyrockets.
One student relayed their experience of paying high rental fees to a private landlord despite substandard living conditions. “Previous housing I’ve been in has been freezing in winter and usually has mould growing on the walls from the dampness. Other common issues were holes in the walls of the houses leading to mice and rats entering easily, even if we kept the house clean.”
Rent in Limerick City has increased by 17.7% on last year. The most recent Daft.ie Report showed this to be the highest increase in Ireland.
Over 48% of all students who have successfully secured accommodation are relying on the private rental market, with over 41% of those paying €600 or more a month in rent.
Communities Officer Corcoran said: “It is evident from the findings that the student population is heavily reliant on the private rental sector, which is already under immense pressure, particularly in Limerick. This highlights the urgent need for more student specific accommodation to ensure we can meet the demand of our ever-growing student population.”
ULSL has been working with students who are desperately seeking accommodation to explore alternative ways to secure housing; through digs, private rental accommodation in towns beyond Limerick City/suburbs and exploring locations beyond the common commuter belt if they have means to travel by car.
ULSL is working collaboratively with the university to ensure the needs of the student population are being met.
Minister Harris has put a liaison officer in place as a direct line between student unions and the Education Minister’s office.
In a statement, ULSL said they will ‘continue to lobby the Government’ in a bid to secure essential additional student accommodation for the students of UL.
In a statement addressing the results, which were pulled from 1,233 student responses, UL Communications Officer Alan Owens said, “University of Limerick is very mindful that the availability of high quality, conveniently located and affordable accommodation is essential for students to thrive, and for the University’s continued academic, social, sporting, and cultural prosperity.
“UL managed accommodation is available to 16% of the UL student population, the highest percentage of any HEI in Ireland. Plassey Campus Centre (PCC) manages the student residences on the UL campus, with a total of 2,850 beds on offer.
“Almost 1,200 first year students have been housed in bedrooms across the on-campus accommodation portfolio. UL has established a Student Accommodation Officer role this year to assist in identifying off campus accommodation for UL students.”
Mr Owens explained that UL are working alongside other third level institutes in an effort to highlight the housing crisis currently affecting students, saying, “UL, with, TUSMM and MIC, are working together on an awareness campaign to highlight the lack of available student accommodation in Limerick and to encourage homeowners with empty bedrooms to consider letting out their rooms to students.
“UL is one of the only third level institutions to run an off-campus accommodation website where students can access details of off campus private accommodation options. There are 75 off campus accommodation options available in digs/homestay arrangements on the website currently.”
The Student Life report was published on the same day thousands of third-level students across Ireland walked out of their lectures at 11:11am to protest the accommodation and cost-of-living crisis.
University of Limerick students gathered with placards in the plaza to protest the increasing financial pressures students face.
The move was part of a nationwide walkout staged by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
Despite not being a member of the USI, the Postgraduate Student Union (PSU) fully supported the walk out, encouraging both students and faculty members to join in.
Find out more about Thursday’s USI student walk out in UL.