Student accommodation provides student with easy access to accommodation.
Image: Canva
  • Enables students to access safe and affordable accommodation during their studies.
  • A rise in commercially owned student accommodation has given students more options.
  • Supply is scarce, with a tight rental market also creating challenges.

Student hip pockets have been hit hard by a cost of living crisis. Whether living away from mom and dad by choice or otherwise, the mounting cost of renting private accommodation is substantial.

It has proven to be a Sisyphean task, with students potentially piling pressure onto an already tight rental market.

The spotlight was recently put on housing diversity as a pathway out of the current housing crisis, with student accommodation as part of the solution.

How many students are there in Australia?

According to data from the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census, 1,185,450 people attended university or higher education in 2021.

International student numbers have also been recovering since the pandemic. Department of Education data for the year to date January 2023 found there were 448,274 international students on student visas in Australia, a 20% uplift from January 2022.

High demand for student accommodation

Demand is currently ‘through the roof’, Campus Perth’s general manager, Rob Mellor, told The Property Tribune. The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) director of student accommodation and community, Ian Fitzpatrick, echoed the sentiment, noting a significant supply-demand imbalance in the student accommodation sector.

Campus Perth is currently 99% occupied, with Mellor adding:

“If we could have another two or three properties next door, we could probably fill them in at the moment.”

The search for student accommodation is particularly challenging in Western Australia, with Mellor noting that due to population growth in the state, some of the rental accommodation that may have previously been occupied by students will now have gone to families instead.

Even if students did look for private rentals, the challenge would likely grow exponentially. Fitzpatrick noted that when a student’s rental application is being compared to a fully employed five-year career professional’s, the landlord is more likely to favour the latter.

Fitzpatrick added that student accommodation itself is diverse.

“The student accommodation ecosystem aims to meet the needs of different students at different phases of life,”

It includes an array of options that meet various needs, from differing price points to whether a student is travelling with a family.

“You’ve got postgraduate students who have very different needs to undergraduate students.”

Wider reaching benefits of student accommodation

Data from the Property Council’s (PCA) Student Accommodation Council estimated that the absence of student accommodation would result in 800,000 additional students vying for accommodation across Australia’s private rental market.

The benefits are also wide ranging, Property Council’s student accommodation council acting executive director, Adina Cirson, told The Property Tribune.

“Our November 2022 research found that 16% of students who complete their studies in Australia stay on to work here, critically alleviating workforce shortages and helping to bring vibrancy to our cities,” she said.

“In 2019, around 300,000 international tourists came into Australia to visit an international student, contributing approximately $1 billion to the economy.

“Attracting international students is essential for our economy and maintaining our highest-performing service export – tertiary education – which was valued at around $40 billion before the pandemic.

“The research found students living in PBSA spend almost as much per month as the average Australian – $4,400 per month not including tuition, while the average Australian spends $4,600 including children and dependants – with almost all of this being spent in CBDs.”

Cirson added that the largest current barrier to the supply of purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) is the lack of definition of PBSA as a distinct asset class, the availability of land supply, the need for greater streamlining of development approvals, and operations across all levels of government.

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