Rent and house prices have soared by up to 54pc in towns in the Dublin commuter belt over the past five years, it has been revealed.
At the same time, the overall cost of living rose by just 1pc.
The average worker's wages failed to keep pace with the spiralling cost of putting a roof over their head, as pay rose by less than 10pc in the same period, according to new research.
The "asking" rent in Meath is nearly €1,300 a month.
This is half the take-home pay of an average worker, according to Siptu economist Michael Taft.
He told a housing conference yesterday that rent rose by 54pc in Navan between 2013 and last year, by just under 50pc in Trim, almost 44pc in Ashbourne and 41pc in Kells.
Rent is now highest in Ashbourne, at an average of €1,181 a month, followed by an average of €960 in Trim, an average of €951 in Navan, and €775 in Kells.
Renting a three-bedroom property in Ashbourne costs €1,220.
However, rent in Meath is third highest outside Dublin - behind Wicklow and Kildare.
In addition, Mr Taft said average second-hand house prices in Meath had risen by almost 54pc since 2013, to €254,000, while the cost of new homes rose by 41pc to €318,800.
"Everyone knows Dublin's got a rent problem but I think people were taken aback when we started getting into four-figures in Meath," he added.
"You're going to see increases in house prices and rent significantly above the national average over the next two or three years, as people in Dublin move out to Meath, Louth or Wicklow, or like after the crash, Offaly or Wexford.
"It's not just about rent and prices, it's also about living standards and not spending time in a car like a loner."
He promoted the idea of "cost rental", where the rent paid by tenants is based on the cost of construction.
The rent would include the cost of building and design but would not be as expensive because it would not include a profit margin.
Rent could also be cheaper if the local authority used land it already owned, but Mr Taft said it was not getting enough funding to build.
Although some pilot projects have been set up, he said the idea should be extended and is backed by Housing Agency head John O'Connor.