With additional reporting by Roisin Ni Shuilleabhain.
Now one month into the academic year, the Limerick Voice took to the halls and courtyards of the University of Limerick’s (UL) campus to talk to the students impacted by the ongoing housing crisis.
Hundreds of UL students, joined by countless others from other third-level institutions, are still struggling to find accommodation four weeks into the academic calendar. Many have been forced to live in hotels, hostels, and even cars.
With no set legislative or institution-led solution in sight, how are those directly impacted by the crisis feeling?
“I am homeless at the moment. I barely do any work because I’m living in a hotel [the Castletroy Park Hotel] at the moment.
I was in the Travelodge the week before. I was in the Kilmurry Lodge the week before that,” UL student Eibhlinn Ryan shared with Limerick Voice reporter Roisin Ni Shuilleabhain.
Students, parents, and guardians are spending hundreds of euro each week on accommodation usually reserved for short-term stays, without any guarantee of permanent residency, as they continue their search for reasonable long-term accommodation in a rental market that cannot sustain them.
“My mam is stressed all the time,” Ms Ryan added.
When asked if the University has been supportive in her search, Ms Ryan commented: “To be honest, it’s not been helpful at all. They didn’t really do much, they just said ‘ring around’.”
It’s not only Irish students feeling the impact of the housing crisis, many international students are experiencing the pressure too.
“The last two weeks have been really stressful,” said Swedish Erasmus student Oscar Malmström, who suggested that the University has been generally unsupportive and “didn’t really understand the problem” faced by international students.
Students warned to ‘be aware of the situation’
Mr Malmström warns Erasmus students to be “aware of the situation” before making the move to study in Ireland.
In response to the growing student frustration, a spokesperson from the University said: “[UL] is aware that there are some students who have been unable to secure accommodation in the locality, with demand at its highest in recent memory.
This has been exacerbated by a national housing shortage, a pattern of private landlords leaving the student rental market and a drop in ‘digs / homestay’ type accommodation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
When asked about what steps the University is taking directly to help alleviate student burdens, the spokesperson commented:
“UL staff members have [also] used their networks of neighbours, friends, and family to encourage those who may have a spare room to consider letting to students.
These efforts have been very effective and there are properties or rooms available to rent on the PCC [Plassey Campus Centre] managed off-campus accommodation list. UL continues to work together with government, our partners in Limerick and the wider sector nationally to develop more long-term plans for student accommodation in Limerick.”
Though particularly prevalent in Limerick – a city considerably smaller than Dublin yet still home to six third-level institutions – the student housing crisis is being felt just as strongly elsewhere in Ireland with similar stories reported in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Sligo.
Earlier this week, Irish students held a ‘No Keys, No Degrees’ protest outside Dáil Éireann to highlight the lack of student housing on a national level.
Organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the protest saw students sleep rough on the streets outside Leinster House in an act of solidarity with those most impacted by the crisis.
The Government is set to meet with Irish university presidents next week to discuss the student housing crisis.