Serious Questions for UL over Rhebogue student housing debacle

26 March 2024

Labour Councillor for Limerick Conor Sheehan is calling for serious questions to be asked of the University of Limerick after it was revealed that UL paid over €600,000 per unit for 20 houses in Rhebogue which are being used as student accommodation without the correct planning permission.

Cllr Conor Sheehan said:

“This is very concerning both for the University and for the Department. We need clarification from the Department of Further and Higher Education as to whether using these properties as student accommodation complies with Government guidelines on student accommodation and if they are in compliance with the Limerick Development Plan which was adopted in 2022.

“The Limerick Development Plan clearly states that the Council supports the provision of high quality, professionally managed purpose built student accommodation either on campus, or in appropriate and accessible locations on public transport or cycle networks.

Cllr Sheehan continued:

“The Department’s guidelines have not been substantially updated since 1999. Ministers Harris and O’Brien launched a long term policy to develop student accommodation in January of this year.

“Yet we still have not seen any sign of new guidelines on Residential Development for Third Level Students. The 2019 National Student Accomodation Strategy estimates a cost of €100,000 per bed space per student accommodation for building new purpose built student accommodation. Given that UL paid €630,000 each for these houses with 80 beds in total, that equates to a cost per bed space of €235,875 for a bed in one of the 30 houses.

“This is an incredible waste of taxpayers money and at a time when ordinary first time buyers cannot get on the housing ladder anywhere in Limerick, the fact that the University has been allowed to get away with spending nearly €630,000 per property on these units is concerning and something that UL must urgently address.

“We need to know who signed off on this and what the rationale was for doing so. I’m also calling on UL to publish all necessary documentation. Minister Harris should also address this and how he intends to prevent other institutes doing the same before he exits the Department of Higher Education into the Taoiseach’s office.

“Labour believes that no institutional investor whether it be a University or a cuckoo fund should be allowed to swoop in and wholesale purchase an entire housing development in this manner.”

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