The group, which advocates for the purpose-built student accommodation sector, said the sudden decision by the Chinese government to stop recognising online learning will “put further pressure on the already tight” industry, as approximately 40,000 offshore students are expected to travel to Australia’s campuses.
Foreign students were already returning en-masse to the country for the start of the new academic year but many are struggling to secure affordable housing when they arrive.
“While the biggest destination city for international students, Melbourne, still has the capacity to absorb larger than expected numbers of Chinese students, cities like Brisbane and Perth will see purpose-built student accommodation buildings full once university returns,” said Torie Brown, executive director at Student Accommodation Council.
Meanwhile, analysis by BONARD found that the average cost of rent for purpose-built student accommodation increased by approximately 8% last year in Australia.
“With Western Australia set to welcome its largest intake of international students since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, demand for student accommodation is at a peak,” a spokesperson from Perth’s Curtin University told The PIE News.
Derryn Belford, CEO at StudyPerth, said that all purpose-built student accommodation in Perth’s Central Business District is now fully booked and vacancy rates are “very low” across the private rental market.
“It is very encouraging to see international students returning to Perth, with commencement numbers this year looking very positive,” Belford said. “However, like other capital cities in Australia, Perth is experiencing a squeeze on student accommodation.”
“Having said this there is a range of other accommodation options available for international students in Perth. Not all students look to stay in commercial accommodation, with many staying with family – noting that over 30% of our population were born outside of Australia,” he added.
“There is no question that the student accommodation market in Perth, as elsewhere, is tight. However, with careful planning and by using the support services that education providers and StudyPerth offer, finding suitable accommodation is possible. It just may take a little longer than before.”
“Cities like Brisbane and Perth will see student accommodation buildings full”
In Southern Australia, the University of Adelaide said it had 1,200 students currently studying remotely in China and that it is “working to secure additional accommodation to enable their return”.
Last December, the government of Western Australia and StudyPerth launched a campaign to encourage homeowners to host international students. Expansion by Edith Cowan and Curtin Universities is expected to bring an additional 13,000 students into the city by 2030, likely compounding the housing problems the region faces.
“This clearly shows there is an opportunity for smart local and international investors to get into the purpose-built student accommodation market in Perth,” said Belford.
Researchers have warned that globally the demand for PBSA is outstripping supply, and within Australia, the pipeline of new properties is “muted”. Savills predicted that 4,979 beds will become operational in 2023, and the level of supply will further decline in 2024, with 1,892 new beds becoming available.
The smaller pipeline is “a consequence of schemes not moving forward during the pandemic, due to concerns around demand, as well as feasibility and planning delays,” experts at Savills’ wrote in a recent report.
Brown said that state and federal governments should incentivise developers by “removing barriers like foreign investor taxes and cumbersome planning processes, which slow the development of new buildings”.