Last month, we reported on Australia’s ever-evolving rental crisis and what it could mean for international students. In the two weeks since then, the Australian housing market has seen even more changes, many of which you’ve likely heard about already. From university property sell-offs to increased accommodation prices and exploitation, the challenges facing renters in today’s market are becoming increasingly pervasive.
In this explainer, we recap some of the latest new updates to help you navigate the rental landscape in Australia.
What China’s ban on online study means for Australia’s rental market
As we previously reported, the state of Australia’s rental market was expected to become more severe with the expected influx of international students in 2023. In December 2022, Studymove Managing Director Keri Ramirez predicted that Australian education providers could see up to 161,000 new international enrollments.
However, these estimates have now grown even larger since the Chinese government announced it would no longer permit its citizens to study online with overseas education providers. Instead, citizens are now being urged to return to their foreign campuses. As a result, roughly 40,000 Chinese students are expected to arrive in Australia in a matter of weeks.
Although Australian education providers have welcomed the decision, it has also created some concern. With such a significant uptick in student arrivals but insufficient rentals available, the competition for accommodation could become even more fierce.
Understanding university property sell-offs
According to The Guardian, multiple education providers sold property during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, The University of Sydney sold over $700 million in property, The University of Wollongong listed three of its properties for sale, and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) sold three of its properties to purpose-built student accommodation provider Scape. This sale was valued at an estimated $95 million.
Now, these private properties are being critiqued for their high prices and limited capacity – or, in many cases, the lack of capacity altogether.
“[Private providers] typically exploit students with higher rents and ridiculous bonds which leave students with a lot of stress and worry,” said President of the National Union of Students president, Bailey Riley. “Universities should have the responsibility to look after students but they’re leaving it to providers. It’s a failure on the part of universities.”
Although these prices have incited criticism, it’s important to note that Australia has seen its cost of living increase significantly over the past year. It was projected that the country’s rate of inflation would peak at 7 per cent last year; as of January 2023, it sits at 7.8 per cent.
Rental prices reaching new heights
The same article revealed that the rent being charged by certain student accommodation providers surpassed the median prices of their respective cities. For example, some listings for a large studio apartment in Melbourne were reportedly showing a price of $759 a week, which is 57 per cent higher than the city’s median rent for a unit of comparable size.
In Sydney, a unit of a similar style was reportedly advertised for $749 per week – a noticeable jump from the city’s median unit rent of $616 per week (as reported in December 2022).
Speaking to Insider Guides, President of the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) Yeganeh Soltanpour noted that the prices of student accommodation were “abnormal” and something “we haven’t seen before.” She said that the affordability of housing is going to become even more of a concern later this year when international students’ working hours are capped once again. With a limited capacity to work, the pressure on international students to keep up with Australia’s cost of living could increase significantly.
Is exploitation the new norm?
Unfortunately, with so much demand for rentals, scammers are circling hopeful tenants, including international students.
Speaking to ABC News, international student Prasidha Neupane revealed that he flew to Perth last month only to discover that the accommodation he had pre-booked didn’t exist. Unable to find another rental in Perth, he had no choice but to fly to Melbourne to stay with his sister.
Cases like Prasidha’s and the severity of the shortage are creating concerns among student associations.
“We are concerned about overcrowding, and further exploitation of students living in student accommodation who currently are not protected by ordinary tenancy rights,” said a group of student guilds in a letter penned to the WA Government.
In the face of these scams, the best thing you can do is familiarise yourself with rental scams in Australia and how to protect yourself.
Similarly, the best thing you can do to navigate Australia’s rental crisis is by remaining up to date on the latest news and insights. We will provide updates as the situation evolves, but if you have specific questions or concerns about your living situation, get in touch with your education provider or the tenant rights body in your state or territory.
- ACT – Tenants’ Advice Service
- NSW – NSW Fair Trading and Tenants Advice & Advocacy Services NSW
- NT – Tenants Advice Service and Consumer Affairs Northern Territory
- QLD – Tenants Queensland and Residential Tenancies Authority
- SA – Consumer and Business Services (CBS) and RentRightSA
- TAS – The Tenants’ Union of Tasmania and Consumer Affairs and Trading
- VIC – Consumer Affairs Victoria
- WA – WA Department of Commerce and Tenancy WA
Students can also reach out to student bodies for additional information and guidance, such as CISA. While CISA handles accommodation enquiries on a case-by-case basis (and therefore cannot guarantee immediate accommodation support), the team can connect you with support and information resources to guide you.
“We encourage students to reach out with any issue or concern, and we will do our best to help in any way we can. At CISA, we understand firsthand what you’re going through and offer advice based on our lived experience as international students,” said Yeganeh.