University of Limerick’s Housing Purchase Raises Concerns Over Spending

In a recent development, the University of Limerick (UL) has come under fire for its acquisition of 20 houses, amounting to a staggering €12.58 million, without the necessary planning permission for student accommodation use. This move has sparked criticism from various quarters, with concerns raised about the university’s expenditure practices.

At an average cost exceeding €629,000 per house, the purchase price significantly surpasses the typical rates observed for similar properties in the region, as indicated by recent Property Price Register data. Local residents express apprehension about being priced out of their own neighborhood, with the chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee also questioning the rationale behind the hefty price tag.

According to the Property Price Register, UL finalized the purchase of these homes in the Drominbeg estate, Rhebogue, last October, amounting to €11.44 million. Upon factoring in stamp duty charges, the total expenditure stands at €12,583,208. UL has stated its engagement with Revenue regarding these charges, underscoring ongoing discussions to address this financial aspect.

The legislative framework implemented in 2021 aimed at curbing bulk acquisitions by institutional investors implicates UL, subjecting them to a 10% stamp duty unless exempted as a local authority or an approved housing body. This transaction not only raises questions about UL’s governance but also highlights concerns regarding the meticulousness of its due diligence procedures pertaining to property acquisitions.

This recent purchase adds to UL’s history of contentious real estate dealings, notably including the admission of overpayment for a city center site acquired five years ago. An investigation subsequently revealed procedural irregularities surrounding the €8 million transaction, leading to a write-down of €3 million in UL’s accounts.

Local residents have voiced discontent over UL’s housing purchase, expressing concerns about exacerbating housing shortages in the area. The occupancy of these homes by postgraduate students and researchers has prompted intervention from the Limerick City and County Council, emphasizing the necessity for new planning permissions tailored to student accommodation.

While UL’s subsidiary managing student accommodation may argue against necessitating additional planning considerations, the community remains wary of potential ramifications, including heightened anti-social behavior and demographic shifts adversely affecting long-standing residents. There are also aesthetic concerns, with the modern design of the new homes clashing with the existing architectural landscape.

The ongoing housing shortage in Limerick underscores the urgency of addressing accommodation needs, particularly for students. However, questions arise regarding UL’s utilization of resources, with suggestions that alternative options, such as on-campus developments or repurposing commercial buildings, could have been explored more diligently.

In response to criticisms, UL emphasizes its commitment to stakeholder engagement and seeks to navigate the housing crisis collaboratively. Nonetheless, scrutiny persists regarding the university’s expenditure decisions and their implications for both the local community and broader housing market dynamics.

As UL navigates these challenges, stakeholders remain vigilant, advocating for transparent governance and responsible resource allocation to address pressing societal needs while ensuring the university’s long-term sustainability and positive community impact.

 

Adapted from an Article from Independent.ie on the 10.2.24