Wellington students are spreading beyond their traditional suburbs to try to escape skyrocketing rents.
The days of living a 15-minute walk from campus are unrealistic for today's students, who face paying anything up to $200 a week for that luxury.
Victoria University Wellington Students Association president Rory McCourt said students were going further afield to get more bang for their buck.
"There are plenty of students living more than an hour's walk away from university to try and get more affordable rent, but then they end up paying for transport costs."
He knew of students who had borrowed up to $5000 a year on top of their loans to cover living costs.
"I've even been told of international students going to loan sharks.
"It's becoming too expensive, and I know plenty of people who would love to live in Wellington but simply can't afford the rent and cost of buses."
Some rent increases in Wellington over the past few years had been double the rate of inflation, without any lift in the standard of housing, he said. "Cold and wet conditions are not conducive to studying."
Rebecca Newble is an 18-year-old Bachelor of Commerce student who has just moved into her first flat, in Mt Victoria, with three friends.
Their rent is $690 a week - $172.50 each - which is cheaper than most places they looked at.
"We saw places in Aro St for between $700 and $750 a week, and they were damp and mouldy," she said.
Choosing to live in a relatively cheaper but warmer and drier flat, further from the Kelburn campus, made sense, she said.
"I have friends in other cities who can't believe how much we're paying to live here."
Miss Newble and flatmate Jinny Kim, 19, are from Christchurch, where average student rents are between $90 and $120 each a week.
"We're all going to have to get jobs with a decent amount of hours to cover our expenses, but even finding a job is hard work at the moment."
Victoria University provides students with financial advice, including a breakdown of typical weekly expenditure. Essentials including rent, bills, groceries and transport and an extra $50 a week for entertainment totals $370 a week.
The maximum student loan for living costs is $172.51 a week.
Without family support, it is recommended that students get part-time work, but of no more than 15 hours a week, to allow time to study. On the minimum wage, students can make approximately $177 for doing 15 hours a week, which means there is still a shortfall of $21 a week.
- The Dominion Post