Students are finding it tough to find somewhere to live.

Students are finding it tough to find somewhere to live. Photo: Richard Briggs

Unprecedented accommodation guarantees, higher vacancy rates and lower rental prices are cold comfort for low-income university students heading for Canberra this year.

Welfare and student associations say many will live on a diet of two-minute noodles and sleep in cars or inshifts in single rooms shared with mates.

The University of Canberra has increased student accommodation by 60 per cent over the last five years.

Next week it opens the eight-storey Cooper Lodge with 416 beds, taking the total to 2400 beds.

The university has dropped rents 5 per cent lower than the government-funded National Rental Affordability Scheme which is 20 per cent lower than market rents.

For the first time the university is guaranteeing all first-year students accommodation. International students are guaranteed accommodation for as long as they are at the university.

Off campus, 3000 rental properties are on the market, nearly double the number from 18 months ago, says the Independent Property Group, when 1600 properties were on the rental market.

RPdata says median advertised rental prices in the ACT for three-bedroom homes and two- and one-bedroom units have dropped between 4.2per cent and 6.8 per cent over the past year.

Yet a turnaround in rental accommodation that has landlords looking for tenants, won’t take pressure off low-income students.

University of Canberra Students Association, one of several managers of university-owned accommodation, has an operating deficit because it struggles to meet  costs.

President Jacob White said Centrelink student allowance of $124 a fortnight didn’t cover a quarter of accommodation costs.

‘‘We’ve had students from Griffith, Wagga, Junee and Tumut sleeping in their cars, from Batemans Bay as well, living in parks, in tents.

‘‘We can’t compete with the likes of UniLodge, the bulk of their students are from Asian countries whose parents pay the full year upfront. Domestic students can’t compete with that.’’

‘‘It’s a bit of a joke. The National Rental Affordability Scheme pumps a huge chunk of taxpayer money into this and it still doesn’t come close to affordable.’’

ACT Shelter spokeswoman Leigh Watson said cases of students sleeping in public spaces, such as libraries and computer rooms, around campuses,  on couches, squatting, skipping meals or taking up prostitution, had been documented.

University of Canberra acting vice-chancellor Professor Nick Klomp, commenting on the pending opening of  Cooper Lodge, said: ‘‘We provide accommodation 25per cent below market rates. It’s still expensive in Canberra, I know that, but at least it helps.

Australian National University has nearly 5000 beds on campus and guarantees accommodation for new full-time undergraduate students from outside the Canberra region.

This year ANU has also guaranteed up to 120 accommodation spaces to students from the ACT.