by Alan Jacques
GREEN Party councillor Seán Hartigan has called on University of Limerick (UL) to explain to the local authority how it plans to accommodate its growing student population in light of the current accommodation crisis.
In a separate motion, the City East representative has also urged the President of UL to report to council members on the provision of parking for existing staff and students, to prevent overflow to the surrounding residential neighbourhoods and businesses.
“UL has recently acknowledged that demand for accommodation for students is at its highest in recent memory. They say this is a result of 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.
“We have had a housing crisis for the last decade and Covid is with us for the last 19 months, which you would think is sufficient time for UL authorities to find a solution to the problem, but they didn’t,” Cllr Hartigan told this Monday’s Metropolitan District meeting.
“It was obvious that inviting all students back to the college for in-person learning was a disaster waiting to happen on many fronts.
“There were other options available to alleviate these problems such as online learning and rotating the student population attending in person. UL had a year and a half to work this out but they failed.”
According to the Green Party councillor, UL were the only ones surprised that asking 17,000 students to attend college at the height of a housing and Covid crisis was going to lead to problems.
“This has aggravated Limerick’s housing crisis and intensified antisocial behaviour and criminality among students in estates surrounding UL,” he claimed.
Cllr Hartigan also raised concerns over the increased car use amongst students attending UL in recent years.
“Student houses in estates in the vicinity of UL that were designed as one car households can have six or more cars. This results in cars parked on footpaths, forcing elderly, young and disabled pedestrians to share the road space with cars.
“Bin collection companies frequently are unable to collect bins. Residents wake up in the morning to find that their car is blocked in. They have to use a taxi to get to work and are late as a result.
“Ambulances or fire trucks would not be able to access houses in the case of an emergency,” he claimed.
“Up to now UL have told members of the public and local representatives that this is not their problem, that it’s the job of the landlords, Council and gardaí to deal with these issues.
UL has increased the population of estates in Castletroy beyond the limit they were designed for, it’s unsustainable and UL must be part of the solution,” Cllr Hartigan concluded.
In response, a UL spokesperson told the Limerick Post that the university is happy to engage with all stakeholders in finding solutions to the current accommodation crisis.
“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.
“The University of Limerick is a smarter travel campus: with the support of Limerick Smarter Travel, the University is committed to the promotion of sustainable modes of travel,” the spokesperson added.