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NSW wants accommodation reforms

A parliamentary report has called for sweeping reforms to address a shortage of affordable and regulated international student housing in New South Wales, Australia. Travel concessions, greater rights for international tenants and incentives for those building affordable residences are among its far-reaching proposals.

"International students “experience some of the most unfair and abusive practices by landlords"

The report comes in response to a student housing crisis in New South Wales, which threatens to destabilise its AUS$6.49 billion international education industry. It stems from a shortage of affordable student housing caused by the rapid growth in Australian international education over the last decade. This has spawned overcrowded and unauthorised residences.

Speaking about an area of northwest Sydney hit by the problem, local MP Victor Dominello told The Australian, “Only two types of people are suffering under the current arrangements: local residents and international students. They did not plan to come to Australia to live in ‘shantyboxes’.”

Dr Martin from the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales told the report that international students “experience some of the most unfair and abusive practices by landlords in the New South Wales rental housing system”.

To remedy the housing shortage, the report calls for travel concessions that enable international students to rent more cheaply further from campus. It also wants to subsidise investors to build more affordable properties after the economic crisis caused a slowdown in construction in the state.

So international students can have more power bringing landlords to book through the courts, it wants to extend existing legislation. But it concedes it can only go so far. “An apartment with three bedrooms shared by eight students is not breaching any laws… Accordingly standards in such a house or apartment cannot be regulated by government,” the reporting committee concluded.

“This report is an important step in improving outcomes for students”

The report was welcomed by the international education sector in New South Wales, which is the most profitable of any Australian state. The executive chairman of Australian Homestay Network, David Bycroft, said, “The greater risk to the industry would be to allow operators with poor or dangerous practices to tarnish the homestay concept and undermine those providers who are committed to safe and effective standards.”

Deidre Anderson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University, said, “This report is an important step in improving outcomes for students, local councils, residents and investors in North Ryde and Marsfield as well as throughout the whole state.”

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