- Lifestyle & Sports
- 05 Oct 21
It’s never been more challenging for students to simply find a place to live in Ireland near where they study for college. The return to university campuses this year led to a rush for accommodation, adding more demand to an already low supply. Hot Press investigates this hugely frustrating situation for students.
Gregory Shiel is a first-year at the University of Limerick this year, who has first-hand experience of the nightmare of securing student accommodation.
“On the open days last year, they advised you to look for accommodation from March and April, if you were dead set on going to UL,” he recounts. “Around March I applied for on-campus accommodation – I think it was the first day it opened. It was around April when they told me I was unsuccessful in the first round, so I then had to wait until September to see if I had any chance of getting their student accommodation.”
Unfortunately for Gregory, his difficulties were just beginning.
“In the meantime, I started joining all the different Facebook pages for students looking for housing,” he continues. “I joined the UL freshers groups from the past three years just to see what different rooms were available around the area.
“I started seriously looking at the end of July, and in August, because I realised that I probably wasn’t going to get on-campus accommodation. I went down to see someone in Limerick for a house, but they wanted €400 for a box room.
“It didn’t have a desk – it was literally just a bed – so I thought I’d leave that one, as it wasn’t worth the money. I wanted a bit more freedom, so I ended up not taking it, but you’d be messaging other people and they’d want the deposit without a viewing amongst other issues.”
Despite eventually getting a room, Gregory has noted how hard it is for his peers to find somewhere to live in Limerick for college.
“I kept emailing and calling but loads of houses only took post-grad students,” he notes. “Luckily, I ended up getting on-campus accommodation, which was grand, but some of my friends are still looking for accommodation. All of the other places that are going up in the Facebook groups now – there’s 30 comments immediately right after they’re posted.
“Everyone’s commenting on it, and as well as first years, you have loads of international students, who don’t even have a place to stay in Ireland if they don’t get accommodation. They’re really struggling, it’s crazy.”
Although on the other side of the country, the similar difficulties faced by the student bodies of UCD and UL finding accommodation are remarkable. Speaking to representatives of UCD’s Student Union, it’s clear that many of those they represent are finding it harder than ever to find affordable housing during their return to campus.
“The biggest thing is the lack of affordable supply,” says Ruarí Power, UCD’s SU President. “Students previously would have taken digs-type accommodation because it’s the cheapest option. That’s largely been taken out of the market because many people don’t want to have students in their homes, as they may be Covid-conscious. Due to that, students are either faced with very long travel times, or having to spend quite a lot more money than they would have hoped on accommodation.”
Some commentators have theorised that a return to remote learning from home that students experienced during the pandemic could be a solution, as it removed some of the demand for housing last year. While Ruarí admits that more online lectures may be a temporary band-aid solution to Ireland’s student accommodation issues, he insists that is not a long-term option.
“For example, if you have students in science programmes,” he says, “they have labs that they need to be there in-person for. Most degrees cannot be completed online. Even for those online last year, it was a significantly diminished quality of experience; people weren’t getting as much out of their degree. It might be a temporary relief but for most students – it wouldn’t be any solace to them.”
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