Students forced to commute to capital from rural homes as rents soar by €1,000 a year
University students have been hit with rent hikes of as much as €1,000 a year, with further increases on the way in some areas.
Student unions are becoming increasingly concerned that the country's rental crisis is creating a generation of stay-at-home student commuters, with some travelling from Galway, Clare and Wexford to the capital to undertake their studies.
And many will be forced to endure these lengthy trips for the foreseeable future following rent hikes imposed at UCD, with rents increasing by 13pc in September. At the college's Belgrove premises the annual cost has gone from €5,058 to €5,210
Rents are expected to increase by a further 7pc for the 2016-2017 academic year, and by 2pc for 2017-2018. In other universities, increases ranging from 3pc to 6pc have been imposed.
UCD said the decision to increase rents was taken in 2013 to help fund the maintenance of existing buildings, and to develop further accommodation.
"The aim is to increase the number of on-campus places from 2,814 to 4,800. The cost of on-campus accommodation remains below comparable market rents," the university said.
The student accommodation crisis is highlighted in a report presented to the Government by the Higher Education Authority.
The unpublished report warns of a worsening housing logjam at third level colleges, as the number of students is predicted to grow by 55,000 by the end of the decade.
A growing number of landlords simply will not rent their properties to students, because there is such a strong demand from working families. With rents so high in the capital, only the most affluent Dublin students can afford to move out of home. Others are forced to remain living with their parents until their mid-20s.
The stay-at-home phenomenon has spread to the commuter counties around Dublin and beyond with thousands of students in Kildare, Wicklow, Carlow, Meath and Louth commuting to college in Dublin.
David Burns of UCD Students' Union said: "Increasingly I am coming across students who are coming in from very far away. I know there are some who come from Clare and Galway if they do not have lectures every day.
"There is also an increase in the number of students who commute to UCD by bus from Wexford."
The commuting culture affects the social life of the colleges, creating a nine-to-five atmosphere which means students have less time for activities such as sport, debating and drama. Laura Harmon, president of the Union of Students of Ireland (USI), added that being forced to sleep on friends' couches was "not conducive to a good study environment".
According to USI, there has also been a revival in the number of students from outside the capital living in digs, rather than renting a place of their own. Students in digs stay in a family home for five or seven days each week, and may either have meals provided or have a self-catering arrangement.
This is because it is much harder to lease properties for the academic year of nine months, with landlords insisting on a full-year lease.
Eve Kerton, welfare officer at Dublin City University Students' Union, said this had led to "panic". "Students used to look for houses and apartments in August, but now the panic is starting much earlier," she said.
The spiralling rents have led to fears Ireland will become a less attractive destination for international students, the USI added.