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Universities on the hook for housing solutions

By Juliet Helmke
27 February 2024 | 11 minute read
torie brown student accommodation council reb klkqnw

Higher education institutions are being urged to take greater responsibility for international student housing to alleviate some pressure on the private rental market.

The Australian Universities Accord final report highlighted the importance of purpose-built student accommodation, and asked universities to implement strategies for housing their international cohorts, given the rising number of students landing on Australian shores to study.

The recommendation was resoundingly welcomed by the Property Council of Australia’s Student Accommodation Council, which has long stressed the importance of purpose-built housing for the education sector in contributing to balance Australia’s property market.

Torie Brown, executive director of the Student Accommodation Council, noted the significant room for growth of the specialised asset and stressed the importance of student accommodation not only for the health of institutions, but the larger economy.

“Purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) has a crucial role to play in providing safe, high-amenity housing for students who are a vital source of life for our CBDs. The sector takes nearly 80,000 students out of the general rental market each year,” she said.

The Property Council estimated in a 2022 report that students living in PBSA spend on average $4,800 per month in Melbourne and $4,680 per month in Sydney on eating out, recreation and retail.

“We were pleased to see the accord mention the important role PBSA plays in the market, and we would like to work with the government to grow the pipeline of supply going forward,” Ms Brown added.

With the rental market already widely characterised as being in a state of crisis, Ms Brown recommended that universities look at expedited solutions.


“The fastest way to add much-needed student housing to the market is for universities to partner directly with the purpose-built student accommodation sector,” she said.

The council has another recommendation for higher institutions: to be wary of how changing international student fees might cause instability in the student population.

The Universities Accord report also recommended the introduction of a tax on “untied” university revenue – mainly earned from international student fees – to finance a $10 billion future fund to finance university infrastructure and student accommodation.

Ms Brown cushioned universities from passing the proposed tax on fully to international students.

“Any tax on university revenue is also a tax on international students – who are one of the biggest revenue sources for the higher education sector,” Ms Brown said.

“International students are already spending upwards of $30,000 per year to study at a top Australian university. We urge universities not to pass this tax on to international students, which may cause them to consider more affordable countries to study in,” she warned.

“The economic impact of having these students in our CBDs is huge – we cannot afford to lose them to competitor jurisdictions like Canada and the US,” Ms Brown said.


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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