Many students returned to campus more than two weeks ago and are still searching for accomodation in the Castletroy or wider Limerick area.
One of them is Erin Dyer, a second year Journalism and New Media student at UL. The 20-year-old is originally from Doonbeg, Co. Clare, but is currently staying with family in Newmarket on Fergus where she commutes to university daily.
Erin says she has been looking for accommodation throughout the summer months, but it was hard to be “on the ball” while maintaining her job at the Trump International Golf Resort in Doonbeg over the summer.
She said she’s used only sites like Daft.ie and posted on the various UL “Freshers” pages in the hope of securing a place to live for the upcoming academic year.
“On the online sites the only person who replied told me he was looking for a mature student.”
She said there’s “way more interaction” on freshers pages, and she’s had lots of replies from people who say she can view a house, only to have them ‘ghost’ her, or for the room to be gone.
In one instance, Erin received a reply that has since gone viral on Twitter: “It’s €130 a week but solely for first years. So stop wasting my fucking time.”
Erin said the reply came as a “shock.”
Though the ad had specified first years, Erin thought “he’d only be happy to have someone with a reference.”
Currently, Erin is waiting to see if a place might show up if students drop out.
She has to take four buses to get to and from college every day.
“In the morning I have to get up very early as the express bus goes at 7:28am. Then I have to get a bus from town to the university. That gets me to college for 9am. If I don’t get the express I’d have to go through Shannon and I’d be another half hour.”
She says the journey is “tedious” and thought it isn’t a “huge impact”, by the end of the week she’s drained.
Erin says she hasn’t contacted UL’s accommodation office or UL Student Life officers yet as she’s “one of the lucky ones.”
“I have a place to stay which isn’t too far away. If I’m still commuting in a few weeks, I will go,” she says.
The second year student says she wouldn’t be able to consider on-campus accommodation as the cost is “far too expensive.”
She also said she’s noticed a huge rise in the cost of off-campus accommodation.
“I’ve seen landlords try charge upwards of €700 a month for box rooms. They don’t face any fear of their rooms not being filled and can charge at their own discretion.”
“I understand that legislating rental accommodation is impossible for the government but the situation is only getting worse.”
“As far as UL is concerned, their accommodation is fairly pricey and it’s hard to justify. You only have to step into some of them to see the standards aren’t as high as their prices reflect.”
The cost of living on-campus or near the UL campus is pricing students out of traditional student areas, forcing them to compete with professionals who themselves are struggling to find somewhere to live.
Oran O’Connell McGrath is another UL student who is struggling to find a place to live this semester.
The first year Computing Technologies student from Waterford started looking for accommodation after he completed the Leaving Cert this year.
He says his experience searching for accommodation has been “quite frustrating.”
“Prices are extortionate if you’re looking close to the UL campus, and many landlords refuse to take first year students.”
The most frustrating thing for Oran has been contacting landlords who have already filled their houses, but neglected to take down their listings.
“The majority of places I ring have already been taken. I’ve wasted significant time chasing dead ends” he said.
The 18-year-old has been staying with his girlfriend in Limerick City up until now, but this is not a long-term solution.
“I check rent.ie and daft.ie hourly for new listings. I’ve posted in UL Freshers groups on Facebook several times.”
He has also used UL’s own off-campus accommodation service, managed by Campus Life Services.
Landlords offering rooms, houses and apartments to rent, and families who have rooms in their homes to let to students can advertise on this site.
Oran believes there should be “stricter vetting” on the listings posted on the site.
“There’s rooms for €400 a month in Tipperary being advertised there” he said.
He has gone into the accommodation office a few times but was told he’d “no chance of getting a place.”
Oran is on the waiting list for student accommodation both on and off campus, but is doubtful of getting a place at this late stage.
“I am not sure if there’s much UL can do to help students at this stage,” he acknowledges, “but I’d like if the waiting list system was changed to prioritize students who live the furthest away.”
“Someone who only lives twenty minutes from campus can get accomodation before I do,” he explains.
The Campus Life Services website states that accommodation offers are made by lottery: “As we receive cancellations, we will revert back to our priority waitlist to offer rooms. Rooms will be offered on a lottery basis.”
From next week, Oran says he will stay in Clare where he will get a train to Limerick City, then cycle or bus it in to UL.
“I’ll probably have to get up around 5:30am for the days when I have 9am lectures,” he said.
Oran says his situation has already impacted his college experience.
His ongoing search for accommodation and long commute has meant he can’t attend club or society meetings after college, or even hang-out with new friends after lectures.
Responding to criticism for its pricing, Campus Life Services told UL’s student newspaper An Focal in a statement; “Rental fees for On Campus accommodation are paid in 3 instalments over the academic year and include the following: accommodation on campus, all utility bills which includes light, heat, refuse collection, Multichannel TV, TV licence, high speed WIFI and individual wired internet connection, academic year gym and pool membership to UL Sport Arena for the residency period, 24 hour security service, daily maintenance service, daily reception service and live in residential support staff, programme of free resident events and social activities throughout the year (approximately 50 events).”
“We are also coming to the end of a €19.5m four year refurbishment programme which included significant upgrade works to student bedrooms and living facilities in Plassey, Kilmurry, Dromroe and Thomond Villages.”
“Last year we introduced a new online accommodation portal where local landlords can list properties for rent. Moving away from traditional printed booklets/listings this new portal ensures more real time information on what options are available in the area. Our students are our absolute priority therefore in the event where we receive negative feedback from students regarding listed accommodation options, it is our policy to withdraw the listing to prevent further negative experiences.
“To assist students with alternative options we led a campaign in 2016 calling local homeowners to consider providing digs options. This sector has developed successfully where we identified over 250 student beds in the immediate area providing digs accommodation. There are Digs accommodations available at the start of week 2 this semester. Our staff are on hand to assist and help with any accommodation queries students may have in our drop in centre in the Student Centre.”