A number of students in Limerick have been forced to hold up in hotels because of a lack of student accommodation in the city and its suburbs.
Students, including some who have travelled from abroad to study in the Treaty City, say the government and universities need to step up to solve the housing crisis and meet demand for affordable and suitable housing.
An international student who flew to Limerick on September 5 to take up a course at University of Limerick on September 6, and who has been staying in a hotel in the city centre, said they wanted “to highlight the shocking state of homelessness” among the Limerick student population.
They are paying €370 per week in “a city centre hotel”, however they said this was not sustainable in the long term and they feared the issue would impact on their studies and their future.
The first year student is “currently living in a Limerick hotel (self-funded) due to the chronic shortages of student accommodation in the city and on campus”.
They complained they could not open an Irish bank account or apply for a Student travel/discount card as they “do not have a stable address”.
The student, who wished to remain anonymous, said they “appealed to the President of the University to assist in securing permanent accommodation, but this has not produced any successful outcome to house us permanently”.
“They have failed to pay or subsidise our hotel stay or provide us with food vouchers to alleviate the financial pressures we are facing,” the student claimed.
They said when they sought advice from UL the university told them they “had to continue to be on a waitlist for on-campus accommodation with no timeline of an outcome, and to continue to search local renting websites”.
The student said they and others “have been doing for weeks, which has only resulted in one viewing and numerous unanswered emails or being told that houses and apartments have already been let”.
They “have just had to pay another week’s stay in the city centre hotel in order to ensure that we can continue with the course and not drop out of a course that we have strived to be accepted on and fulfil a lifelong dream”.
“To make matters worse they are taking in more students starting on Monday 13th September; Where these students will be housed is unclear. The university is continuing to fail its students, as this problem is not a new one they are facing, the university has faced sit in protests about the lack of student accommodation, no infrastructure has been planned to alleviate the pressure on accommodation and leaving students homeless,” they said.
The University of Limerick (UL) has invested in 2,800 rooms across seven on-campus residential villages with “something to suit everyone”, UL’s website states.
The website advises students that finding accommodation is “extremely important”.
The website announced that “Lottery Applications” for accommodation for “incoming CAO First Year” students for the 2021/2022 academic year, had closed on March 31 this year.
“Those unsuccessful in the lottery have been automatically placed on our wait list. Should we receive cancellations, rooms will be offered to this waitlist on a lottery basis. Please note that we do not guarantee you will be offered a room,” the notice reads.
The website added that students who did not apply for the “First Year Lottery” were able to “register and apply for a secondary waitlist on September 7th 2021”.
Students are advised on the website a number of times that the University cannot guarantee students will be offered a room under the lottery system.
UL has been asked for a response.
Meanwhile, students at Mary Immaculate College have struck a deal with three Limerick city hotels to accommodate some of its students for a weekly fee of up to €390, according to RTE.
The teacher training college said it was the first time it has had to do this for students returning after the summer break, and that it had reached a similar deal with a hotel in Thurles, Co Tipperary where it has a smaller campus.
In a statement to RTE, the college said the situation was “not ideal” but that it had no other option.
It said one key factor was remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that many students had not rented accommodation, and that, in the meantime many houses that used to be available to students had been taken out of the market by others.