Students ‘not to blame’ for rental crisis

Student in room on computer | Newsreel
International students have limited impact on the rental market, according to a recent report. | Photo: Dejan Dundjerski (iStock)

International students have minimal impact on Australia’s rental market, according to a new report.

Countering commentary that the influx of overseas students is a leading cause of the housing unaffordability crisis, a Student Accommodation Council report found international students accounted for 4 percent of the nation’s renters.

The report, Myth busting international students’ role in the rental crisis, also looked at historical data on overseas student numbers and the rental market.

It found THAT between June 2019 and June 2023, median weekly rents rose by 24 percent at the same time as the number of students rose by 4 percent. When the number of international students rose by 18 percent between June and October last year, median rents rose by 5 percent, the report stated.

It also pointed to data that between December 2019 and December 2023, median weekly rentals increased by 30 percent, while student visa arrivals dropped by 13 percent.

When looking at the demographic distribution of renters in Australia, the report found almost 90 perCent were non-students and just over 6 percent were domestic students.

It found that in 73 percent of local government areas, international students made up less than 1 percent of the rental market.

Student Accommodation Council Executive Director Torie Brown said international students were vital to Australia’s economy.

“However, in recent times they have unfairly worn the blame for Australia’s rental crisis,” Ms Brown said.

“This report categorically demonstrates that international students are not the cause of the rental crisis.

“To lay the blame for Australia’s overheated rental market at the feet of students, who underpin our university sector and fill skills gaps within our cities, is at the very least unfair, and at the most highly damaging to our reputation as a welcoming country.”

The report also showed the current pipeline of new purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) developments would not meet future needs – with the projected 7770 new beds due to come online by 2026 not enough to alleviate demand in the private rental market.

“International students have been unfairly blamed for the rental crisis, yet this report shows that long term structural issues in Australia’s housing market are the real cause for rental pressures,” Ms Brown said.

“If we continue to build new student accommodation assets at the current rate, we will see an extra one per cent of international students forced into the private rental market.

“We need the pipeline of PBSA projects to add 66,000 new beds to the market by 2026 to maintain the proportion of international students living in our buildings rather than the private market.

“We need governments to work with us to grow the supply of professionally managed, custom built and safe student accommodation which alleviate pressure on the private rental market.”

Read the full report