As a result of the accommodation crisis, more than 35% of all University of Limerick students who took part in a recent UL Student Life (ULSL) survey who still cannot find suitable accommodation are being forced to commute long distances, stay in hotels, sleep in cramped conditions, or find themselves homeless or in emergency accommodation.
ULSL released the findings from their Student Accommodation Survey today 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.
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.
ULSL President 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.
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.”
This comes as the University of Limerick hits a record of 18,000 students this term, the highest number the University has ever had.
Limerick already has the highest number of student specific accommodation in the country, but students are pleading for more suitable, affordable student specific accommodation.
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.
ULSL Communities Officer, Laura 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. ULSL will continue to lobby the Government in a bid to secure essential additional student accommodation for the students of UL.
See the full report here.