Limerick students forced to live in garden shed

University of Limerick is seeking to provide student accommodation in a section of the Travelodge Hotel on the Dublin Road.

UNIVERSITY of Limerick students were living in a garden shed as others stayed in hotels or took a year out due to the lack of accommodation in the city.

That’s according to complaints made to the Department of Further and Higher Education about the cost and lack of availability of student accommodation in Limerick over the past three years.

Documents released by the Department to the Limerick Post under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that the majority of complaints concerned accommodation for University of Limerick (UL), while a handful were about Mary Immaculate College (Mary I).

The complaints came from worried parents and students stressing about the extreme lack of availability of accommodation, and the price of accommodation for those who were successful in sourcing a place to stay.

One parent said that their daughter had resorted to staying in a “garden shed”, which is “well below standard, but for the opportunity to be in university it seemed worth it.”

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“Student accommodation is a shocking disaster, and so she is living in someone’s (literal!) garden shed,” the complaint read.

“The shed is shared and cramped, with patchy WiFi, so taking her online classes there is not an option,” said the parent.

Another parent wrote that their son was advised by his lecturers to defer a semester due to the toll commuting long distances was having on him and his work.

The parent added that their son had begun suffering difficulties with his mental health due to not being able to fully participate in college life.

“[My son] has never suffered with mental health issues but this whole experience where he is continuously on the perimeter of college life, unable to form important friendships, unable to participate in sports, has left him devastated.”

“This is life altering for students who are forced to drop out or defer because the commute is simply too much on them,” the parent said.

UL currently provide accommodation for 2,800 students in their five on-campus accommodation villages, according to the university’s accommodation website.

In the private rental market, one parent wrote that they had tried “over 120 different places” looking for accommodation for their child.

They claimed that when eventually got an offer of a room in a house (“room only, use of toilet only” for €300 a week), the rent was “more than my current mortgage”.

Meanwhile, the parent of a Mary Immaculate College student said that their daughter had to spend two weeks in a hotel due to a lack of suitable student accommodation.

“She is on two waiting lists, but has been told that there are many other students ahead of her.”

“It is a very stressful situation and I am well aware that there are many other students in the same position,” the mother wrote.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, a spokesman for UL said that the University is committed to seeking solutions to the ongoing accommodation crisis.

“University of Limerick has been, and continues to be, very active in seeking solutions to the current severe shortage of student accommodation in Castletroy and the wider Limerick area,” the statement said, adding that “there is a lack of accommodation in general nationally – not just in Limerick”.

“UL already provides the largest percentage of on campus accommodation per student population of any higher education institution in Ireland. A significant percentage of these beds are prioritised for incoming first year students.”

The statement added that the University “has previously announced an additional 80 beds in 20 new houses in the Rhebogue area which are expected to be available for the new academic year.”

This comes as it has emerged this week that UL have applied to Limerick City and County Council for planning permission to add more student accommodation on the Dublin Road.

Plassey Campus Centre, a subsidiary of the University, have applied for change of use for the upper floors of the Travelodge building at the Park Point complex from office use to use as student accommodation. The budget hotel currently occupies four floors of the building.

The proposed redevelopment would see floors six to nine converted into student accommodation.

The University bought the Park Point complex in 2016 for €4.1 million.

It is not yet known how many extra student bed spaces the potential redevelopment of Park Point would generate, but a decision from the Council on whether or not to grant permission for change of use is due by June 14.