When Kai Pethick was accepted into his dream course at university, he didn’t expect the hard work to begin with finding an affordable place to live.
The 18-year-old from the Sunshine Coast had a rough budget of $200 a week to find a room in student accommodation – but quickly realised that was a pipe dream.
“I was pretty shocked,” he said.
“It’s been really hard finding affordable accommodation that meets a certain standard where you’re not living with a bunch of people – like 12 people sharing a kitchen.”
After weeks of searching, he eventually secured a room and parking on campus in Brisbane for $395 a week.
His parents will be chipping in to cover the cost.
“I think it’s unrealistic that he’ll be able to afford to do that and feed himself,” Kai’s father Ross Pethick said.
“The pressures of selecting and finding something, and then how much it’s going to cost, has obviously taken away a little bit of excitement [about university] unfortunately.”
Price hikes and full rooms
The cost of university accommodation has risen significantly since the pandemic – and securing a bed for the start of the academic year is more competitive than ever.
Operators, grappling with empty rooms, offered discounted deals during COVID.
But the return of international students has sent prices back to pre-pandemic rates, and in some cases, even higher.
Sunshine Coast father Chris Foster was stunned when his 18-year-old daughter received notice of a rent increase for her room in a six-person apartment in Brisbane.
“We’re in a situation now where we’ve gone from $199 a week to $340 a week, is what they’re suggesting,” he said.
“Student accommodation is a necessity … I’m not sure why the price hike had to go that high.
Student Accommodation Council executive director Torie Brown said accommodation providers in Brisbane were experiencing record demand.
“Brisbane is the tightest student accommodation market in the country now,” she said.
“We were expecting that student accommodation beds would be pretty much completely full in Brisbane for the start of semester one, but that was before the Chinese government changed its rules around online learning.
So I think we can say pretty safely that Brisbane will be having very few, if any, student accommodation beds vacant.
Providers have attributed rising rents to inflation and increased operating costs.
Tim Weston, the chief executive of Brisbane accommodation provider Student One, said his electricity prices had surged by 200 per cent.
“You’ve got to charge a fair price for a fair product, but you also have to survive through the whole thing,” he said.
Mr Weston said Student One reduced its prices by 20 to 25 per cent during the pandemic to cater to struggling students.
“By the end of last year, we were probably just about back to where we would have been in 2019 – our rates here are only $10 more than what they were three years ago,” he said.
Rental market just as tough
Chris Foster said his daughter decided to ditch student accommodation in the hope of securing a better deal elsewhere.
Since December, they have attended about 35 apartment inspections and been repeatedly knocked back by real estate agents.
The situation got so dire, Mr Foster said he seriously considered buying an apartment instead.
“We did get to the point where we were offering rent six months in advance, and all sorts of stuff to try and secure it,” Mr Foster said.
“We inspected a couple of properties where we saw well over 100 couples going into see that property – there’s one that I’m sure had north of 200 people that were having a look at it.”
Mr Foster said there was “a lot of relief and a few tears” when his daughter was eventually approved for a two-bedroom apartment for $550 a week – just days before her previous lease was due to expire.
“If we didn’t secure that accommodation, she would be driving probably two hours to uni, one way,” he said.
We are still considering buying a property … and that’s mainly because of the lack of rentals that are out there.
Article source: www.abc.net.au