AUSTRALIA: For Zoey Zhang, a Chinese student who is heading to a prestigious Australian university, finding accommodation down under has been difficult—so much so that she has even contemplated sleeping “rough on the streets.”
Student housing crisis in Australia
Like Zhang, approximately 700,000 Chinese students who had registered to study abroad were left in the lurch after Beijing issued a surprise directive in January stating that they would need to return to on-campus learning for their degrees to be recognised back home.
This has prompted a rush for accommodations even as housing markets around the globe struggle with rising rents. But the issue is more severe in Australia because its academic year begins in February rather than September like it does in North America and Europe.
Zhang stated she “went into panic mode,” as the rule modified, after three years of border closure due to COVID-19, which meant she and the around 40,000 other Chinese students who were also travelling to Australia would all be searching for a place to stay.
“Finding a rental in Australia wouldn’t be simple, but I didn’t anticipate it to be this challenging. Some people are renting out their balconies or living rooms. I doubt I’m capable of doing it,” Zhang, 25, said on the phone from her residence in the Shandong province of eastern China.
Zhang, who has enrolled at the University of New South Wales for a master’s degree in marketing, continued, “For the past month or so, I have been seeking for a room, but I have given up. In a pinch, I might even sleep in public places like a bridge or the area outside the Chinese consulate.”
The University of New South Wales, which will continue to accept a quarter of its students from China through 2020, reported that all of its on-campus housing was already occupied and that it was renovating university apartments to sublet to international students.
A representative for Sydney University, which has a quarter of its students from China, said the university’s 2,400 on-campus dorm beds were all taken and that in order to handle the influx, 700 additional beds had been reserved with outside providers.
Analysts say that even those students who are planning to postpone a semester may have trouble finding a bed as many construction projects for international students were delayed during the pandemic and it usually takes four years to finish one.
The real estate firm is experiencing unprecedented demand, said Conal Newland, national director of operational capital markets at Savills Australia. “It’s a perfect storm,” he said.
Big rush for accommodations
The student housing sector, one of the few segments of Australian domestic real estate that languished during COVID, has meanwhile been given a boost by the shortage.
Before 2020, approximately 40% of Australia’s yearly education revenue of A$40 billion ($27 billion) came from Chinese students. This decreased to less than a quarter of the market due to border limitations related to COVID, which caused the market to decrease by halving.
But China’s reopening has brought up the issue of bed availability as a “welcome sign” for investors, stated Brad Williams, AMP Capital’s diversified infrastructure trust managing director and the third largest owner of purpose-built student accommodation in Australia.
The nation’s largest provider of purpose-built student housing, Tomas Johnsson, CEO of UniLodge Australia, said that some developers were even paying more to expedite building.
The fastest-ever two-year rise in rents is predicted to occur in 2023 in the broader real estate market, where the majority of international students reside, say economists at Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX). Last year, they grew by about 10%.
Joe Du, a real estate agent in Sydney, said he had leased a one-bedroom apartment to the mother of a Chinese student for A$1,050 per week, which is about 40% more than the next most expensive one-bedroom apartment in the area. In 2022, the unit was rented for A$540, as shown in the public records.
” Although we advised her against placing a bid this high, she was truly worried that her child might not have a place to stay,” said Du, adding that “she was in a big rush.”
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