Many students who are on campus for just three days a week are opting to commute long distances to college rather than pay for housing, according to an accommodations officer at Munster Technological University (MTU) in Cork.
Deirdre Falvey, from MTU Student Services, noted a number of factors – not least the pandemic – have made finding accommodation particularly difficult this year.
Ms Falvey said that in addition to the chronic lack of student housing in Cork, students who want some experience of traditional college life are reluctant to go into “digs” with families.
“They want student apartments. We have one new student apartment block next to us in campus and that adds an extra 350-odd bed spaces but we are still short.”
She said many landlords are no longer renting to students because over the pandemic a lot of them lost their student tenants and decided to rent to families instead.
“The pandemic has caused a knock-on effect on everything,” she said, adding that many students are now commuting.
"I have heard of lads coming from Dungarvan in Waterford to here because there aren't enough houses," Ms Falvey said.
“It is a bit different for us this year because some of our students are only on campus a couple of days a week because they are doing blended learning,” she said. “It suits some of our students to commute because financially it is easier than paying for student apartments for the full week.”
She said some parents are renting out rooms to students in order to pay for accommodation for their sons or daughters who are studying outside of Cork. This type of situation can be a “win-win” for all.
Aisling O’Mahony, students’ union president at MTU, said the accommodation crisis in Cork has been heightened because many students and their families cannot afford the ‘luxury’ accommodation being built by private developers.
“As a result our students are forced to commute the length and breadth of the country to get their degrees.
“Private accommodation providers in Cork have increased rent rates year on year,” she said. “We are calling on the Government to provide much-needed publicly-funded accommodation, where rent rates can be controlled and student tenants have more rights.”
Ms O'Mahony said that five years ago there were more than 150 houses in the Bishopstown area that were rented to students.
“Today the list of houses has decreased to less than 15. That’s approximately a decrease from 900 to 90 beds available to students in the last five years.
“These houses are currently being occupied with young families or working professionals. So tell me: where do we put the excess of 810 students?”