Students squeezed as rents rise and 12-month leases demanded
The chase for a college home is getting tougher in the face of rising rents and landlord demands for 12-month leases.
The national housing crisis is particularly acute in the larger cities and towns - the very areas where universities and other colleges are based - and students are feeling the squeeze.
The cost of accommodation, both in the private rented market and on-campus, has gone up this year in almost every student base, with the highest prices in Dublin, Galway and Maynooth.
In the difficult market, the advice to students who have not booked accommodation for September is to not gamble on finding a place to live at the end of the summer, and to start the search now.
More purpose-built student accommodation is opening, particularly in Dublin, but with rents of about €1,000 a month not unusual, the cost is out of reach for the typical Irish undergraduate.
Living in one of Dublin's newest city student residences, Dorset Point, run by the UK-based Aparto, will cost €9,635-€12,259 for the academic year, although it does include extras such as a gym and cinema room.
Dublin has become a magnet for international student accommodation providers, who have snapped up city sites to develop dedicated student apartment blocks.
Many beds in new residences are being filled by the growing number of international students arriving in Ireland, either for higher education or English language schools.
Another provider, GSA, said it expects about 69pc of the bookings at its Uninest, New Mill, complex opening in Dublin 8 in September to be from overseas students, mainly from the UK, Canada, US and Spain.
There is also a burst in activity in the development of on-campus accommodation in universities, which will ease the pressure in the longer term, but while some more beds are opening for September, it will be another year or two before the full impact of it is felt.
The accommodation shortage has made it a landlord's market, and it is now commonplace for students to be told they must sign up to a 12-month lease, rather than the nine-month academic year. This has forced students, or their parents, to cough up for an extra three months to be sure of a roof over their heads for the following September.
The pressure on accommodation, and its link to rising rents, has seen a growing return in popularity in traditional homestay, or 'digs', arrangements, where students live in someone else's home.
This option has been boosted by the €14,000-a-year tax-free allowed to homeowners who rent a room, and college accommodation services are flooding local residents with flyers looking for hosts.
The scale of the financial challenge is underlined in data from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) Rent Index, showing year-on-year increases for three-bedroomed apartments or houses in 55 of 59 areas nationwide with high concentrations of students.
The sharpest rise was in Galway city - up by 33pc. Rents fell in only four locations, with the biggest drop, 4.6pc, in Sligo town. The data compares the first quarter of 2017 with the same period in 2016, and Dublin 4 was the most expensive, up 9pc, to €2,514 a month, equating to an annual rent bill per student of almost €8,200.
The cheapest was Letterkenny, at €595 per month, or just over €1,900 per year for someone in a three-bedroom share.
Dr Brian Gormley, head of Campus Life in Dublin Institute of Technology, who undertakes an annual survey of student living costs, said rents now exceed boom prices during the boom. "Contributing to this is a shortage of rental accommodation, with Daft.ie reporting in 2016 that only 3,100 properties were available to rent nationwide - the joint-lowest level ever."
Dr Gormley put the average monthly rent for students in Dublin at around €508, but said it can vary widely, from below €300 for a shared room, up to €1,600 or more for a one-bedroom unit in Dublin 2.
"On the positive side, there are signs more supply is coming on stream, particularly in Dublin, but this is not yet sufficient to slow the increase in rents," he said.
Although Cork city has seen some big increases in rents this year (up 24pc, to €1,187 a month in Bishopstown), there is no change in
the cost of on-campus accommodation at University College Cork (UCC).
UCC said it has experienced a noticeable increase in demand from first-year applicants, as well as a mix of returning, postgraduate and international students.
The college is finalising refurbishment of one of its four units, which has 180 beds, and is considering options for expanding its campus accommodation offering.
Limerick prides itself on being the most affordable university town for student accommodation.
According to the 2017 RTB index, typical monthly rents for a
three-bedroomed house around the city range from €682-€878.
Rates for on-campus accommodation in the University of Limerick have risen for most rooms. A room in one four-bed apartment for the 2017/18 academic year will be €5,082, up from €4,910 last year.
A UL spokesperson said rents for on-campus accommodation had “increased slightly to facilitate the ongoing refurbishment of over 1,000 rooms as well as automatic gym membership for all residents”.
The sharpest rise in rents nationwide in the past year was in Galway City, up by a whopping 33pc.
In residential areas around the city, rent for a three-bedroom property will typically range between €894-€1,295 a month.
There have also been increases in the rates of on-campus accommodation in NUI Galway. A single en-suite room will cost €5,425 in the upcoming academic year.
NUI Galway advises on other accommodation sources on its site, with over 800 rooms advertised since May. A new residence with 429 bed spaces is on schedule for opening in September 2018.
As one of Ireland’s youngest towns, the huge demand for accommodation in Maynooth is reflected in the typical monthly rent of €1,286 for a three-bedroom house in the town.
Demand for places in Maynooth University rose significantly this year and is at an all-time high. A spokesperson said the “very strong” demand for on-campus accommodation last year has been replicated for 2017/18, and the number of on-campus beds has increased by 292.
A single, en-suite room in a shared apartment will cost €5,434 for the academic year, up from €5,320, attributed to “ongoing refurbishment and maintenance”.