Date Uploaded: 02/08/2016
Ireland's housing crisis is set to worsen in the coming weeks, with unprecedented demand for student accommodation across the country forcing universities to appeal for support.
With CAO results due in the coming weeks, a shortage of student housing is set to become more apparent as demand for places reaches unprecedented levels.
It comes as property experts warn the Government's new housing action plan should prioritise delivering smaller housing units, such as apartments, student housing complexes and retirement villages.
This would also help to free up three- and four-bed semi-detached houses occupied by students and empty-nesters - parents whose children have moved away.
The clamour for student housing was so great in Limerick last year that one student was found sleeping rough on the University of Limerick (UL) campus.
The student was discovered under a stairwell by security guards after failing to secure accommodation before the start of term.
Staff at the university then intervened and found accommodation for the student.
UL has issued an appeal for landlords to provide digs this year to meet demand in the city and surrounding suburbs.
Every August, up to 60,000 Leaving Cert students are left scrambling for the last remaining student accommodation spaces across the country after the first round of CAO offers.
However, many purpose-built student complexes and off-campus housing near universities are already fully booked up for next term.
Dublin's housing crisis is forcing students to consider alternative courses and institutes, with Limerick seeing a spike in demand for accommodation. Those who are best prepared have had accommodation booked as early as March this year.
economist Ronan Lyons stressed that the problem could be resolved in the long term if the Government decided to build apartments instead of houses as part of its new housing plan.
"The only property that we have enough of is three- or four-bed semi-detached houses. What we are missing is pretty much everything else," he said.
"We are missing student accommodation, we are missing options for downsizers and the result is that everyone ends up getting thrown into the three- or four-bed semi-ds. You end up with students and older people living in them so what we need are other types of accommodation.
"There are plenty of people in their late 50s, 60s and 70s who would love to downsize but there are no options."
The situation has become progressively worse in Limerick, Cork and Galway in recent years.
This year, UL is inviting homeowners and landlords to come forward and consider making spare rooms available to prospective students.
The university's student residences manager Ellen Fitzmaurice said its aim is to find safe and affordable accommodation for students.
"Rental fees are usually charged inclusive of utility bills and range between €70 and €110 per week depending on the facilities and services offered to the student."
NUI Galway met with 170 homeowners last week to offer advice on renting to students and the Government's rent-a-room initiative.
Homeowners can earn up to €12,000 tax-free per year by letting a room for residential accommodation in their sole or primary residence.
Director of student services at NUIG John Hannon said: "The social benefits, such as company for the house owner, and the provision of semi-structured accommodation for students leaving home for the first time, result in a 'win-win' situation for all involved."
Journalist: Wayne O'Connor