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High demand for student housing

With the number of international students on the rise, and university prices on a steep incline, the demand for affordable student housing is at an all-time high reports Anna Clark in the April 2012 edition of The South Sydney Herald.

Whilst the Aboriginal Housing Company’s Pemulwuy project plans to provide beds for 150 students, those living in Sydney are still struggling to find suitable housing.

Sydney is not only Australia’s most expensive city, but also boasts the title of fifth most costly in the world. As such, there is an understandable struggle by students to find reasonably priced accommodation close to the world-class universities they travel from around the globe to attend. For most international students, who already pay full fees for their studies, this means an immense accumulation of debt.

Reine-Soria Ho, who came to Australia from France to study business, said: “At the end of my stay in Australia I could barely afford to eat. The rent of my shoebox-size room on campus at UTS cost me twice as much as my Paris home.” If international students, who by definition can afford to pay full up-front university fees, are feeling the challenge of Sydney housing costs, then surely local students are also sensing the weight of independent living. It is an additional weight to be added to their ongoing university HECS debts. Lucy Adams, 19, who lives with her parents near Manly, said: “I would love the freedom of living independently, but for the time being I cannot afford it, and I already have enough debt in my uni fees.”

Chippendale and Redfern are amongst the cheapest inner-city suburbs in terms of average rental costs, but they still only offer real estate beyond the budgets of most independent students. This is a problem, in that it’s these inner-west suburbs that are deemed most attractive to students, due to their location in walking-distance of Sydney University, Sydney Institute of TAFE, Notre Dame, UTS and various other independent colleges.

One other option is renting an apartment in one of the many multi-storey building blocks such as UniLodge or Urbanest, which are aimed only at students and decorate inner-west suburbs. While less expensive than Sydney University’s college-style accommodation, apartment rental can still take its toll on the student budget, with UniLodge charging as much as $387 per week for a single room.

On the corner of Cleveland and Abercombie Streets in Redfern lies the site for the newly proposed Urbanest building. The project proposal outline states that: “Inner city suburbs like Redfern are experiencing very strong demand compounded by a city-wide shortage in rental accommodation and housing supply. The growing number of students coming to Sydney is adding to that demand. Many students are finding it very hard to get well maintained and safe accommodation within a reasonable distance to the universities.” While the Urbanest proposal acknowledges Sydney’s severe shortage in student accommodation, it does very little to suggest that rent costs will be any more affordable that its Quay Street, Ultimo counterpart, whose cheapest room is $344 per week. The City of Sydney and the Redfern Waterloo Authority are yet to approve the proposal.

Even with the development of the Pemulwuy project, an offset of the Aboriginal Housing Company, there is just a miniscule improvement considering Sydney’s three major universities attract over 30,000 international students each year. While a small number of individuals find affordable living through friends or scholarships, most are left with very limited options, with many being forced to resort to on-campus housing, which can do severe damage to the average student bank balance. St Paul’s College, part of Sydney University’s on-campus housing, costs $477 per week for rent alone. Without some sort of continual support from parents or government, maintaining this lifestyle would be near impossible.

Angus, a UTS film student, recently moved into a share house in Chippendale: “I found searching for affordable housing really difficult. And for students it’s practically impossible unless your parents chip in, because even if you qualify, rent assistance probably won’t cover it. And then you have to factor in bills as well ...” Angus came to Sydney from Tasmania where the average rent is nearly half that of inner Sydney. If living costs continue to rise, it is safe to assume that Sydney will start to attract fewer and fewer students.

To find out more on the Pemulwuy project, email the AHC at For more info on the Urbanest proposal visit urbanest_clevelandst_openday_ displayboards.pdf or call the project’s enquiry line on 0435 830 868.

Source: The South Sydney Herald April 2012 –