COLLEGE students are the latest victims of the housing crisis and rising rental prices in and around Dublin.
Students coming to the capital in the autumn are facing a 15pc hike in rents over last year's rates – and that's if they can find accommodation at all.
The first problem out-of-town college-goers have to deal with is securing somewhere to live in a city with an acute shortage of housing to meet the growing demand from young professionals and families.
Competition for rental properties has driven prices up, while the property tax and water charges are also contributory factors in the steep increases since last year. Along with the higher accommodation costs, students not in receipt of a grant face a €250 hike in the college contribution charge, which will be €2,750 in September.
The acute accommodation shortage in Dublin extends to the outskirts of the city, and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) president Joe O'Connor said the students at NUI Maynooth were also facing major problems
"Both Dublin and Maynooth are crisis situations," he said
The problem in the capital is so bad that Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is advising students to be prepared to book now and pay for 12 months, rather than the nine-month academic year.
It is not only the private rented market where costs are rising – students seeking on-campus accommodation may also have to fork out more than last year.
At University College Dublin, fees for its student residences are going up by 11pc in September, and will range from €4,901-€6,691, including utility costs and insurance.
It had been thought that competition from the opening of Ziggurat Student Living in the old Montrose Hotel near UCD would help bring prices down but the opposite scenario has developed.
Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has not posted its on-campus rates for 2014/15 yet, while at Dublin City University (DCU), where campus accommodation will range from €4,290 to €4,820, a spokesperson said costs were increasing in apartments that have been refurbished. On campus rates at NUI Maynooth range from €2,280 (for a bunk bed) to €4,560.
The USI president said TCD Students' Union were predicting that the accommodation situation would be worse than last year, when there were "huge difficulties" and exploitation of students who had to pay high prices for low-quality private accommodation.
"Not only are there fewer properties available to rent, the increase in young families, couples and professionals who may previously have entered the mortgage market, but are now choosing to continue renting is further squeezing availability for students", he said.
Brian Gormley, manager of DIT's Campus Life services, said rents were up by about 15pc since last year .
DIT has a particularly keen handle on the situation because about 5,000 of its 13,000 full-time students come from outside Dublin and the college does not yet have its own on-campus residences.
Every year DIT reserves rooms in purpose-built student residences operated by private providers and, this year, it has already block-booked about 750 rooms, compared with about 300 two years ago.
Mr Gormley advised: "In the long run, it might be more advisable to book accommodation over the summer. I think if people leave it until September they will end up paying a much higher rate."
The shortages in and around Dublin reflect the particular pressures on the housing market in the capital, although Mr O'Connor reported some difficulties for students seeking to live in Galway city centre, convenient to NUI Galway.