University students are having to queue up overnight to secure their accommodation for next year.
Freshers are only a few weeks into their first term away from home, and they are already having to plan ahead.
Footage filmed by Durham University's student channel PalTV shows crowds of teenagers lining up outside estate agents in a bid to find a home for the next academic year.
As is the case with the rest of the country, the rental market in the city has gone haywire, with students sharing stories of rents going up from £89 a week to £189.
Speaking to the BBC, third year student Tom Richardson said he had been told about the queues at around 7.30 the night before and had been waiting for six hours.
"I think it's quite simply there's too many students and not enough houses," he said.
"We decided to get up at about half three, get there for four and then queue straight the way through.
"It was absolutely manic - people had camping chairs, tables set out, loads of blankets - by the end, when people started moving it looked like a dump site."
Fellow student Peter Thorne said there was a clear sense of desperation, with people falling out with one another over in the midst of the panic.
He said: "We had people last week coming to our house saying 'we have already signed your house, we queued since 5am', and they had no choice but to sign a house in a panic basically, without even looking at the house.
"I think it's terrible for the first years - the first two years for us were very easy to try and get a house and now it's just such a change, it's been quite bad, we still haven't found one but we are hoping for the best."
Some of those who were seen braving the cold to keep their place in line told reporters that they were taking it in shifts with their housemates.
With rents rising almost overnight, students are desperate to find somewhere before they are priced out of the market.
One student said: "It's become unaffordable for most students.
"A lot of houses are bills included, that's why prices have been raised.
"We have got to a real problem where low income and working class students are going to be priced out of the city."
The students' union said the university bears some responsibility for the situation, and called on it to offer support to students struggling to find somewhere to live.
"Bringing students to Durham without knowing that the city, and surrounding area, is able to house them - in university beds or not - is irresponsible," it said.
The university said it was in touch with the city's letting agents and council, and encouraged students to speak to their colleges.Featured Image Credit: PalTV