Monthly Archives: October 2012

Student Housing Action Collective takes to the streets

Published in Honi Soit, p. 6, Week 12 Semester 2 Edition, 24 October 2012.

honi  wk12, 24 oct 2012, p6

Ada Lee reports from the front line

Last Wednesday October 17, around 100 campaigners marched from outside the Carslaw building to Sydney University Village (SUV), demanding affordable student housing. Accompanied by police, protestors carried ‘SHAME ON $UV’ banners, chanting “It’s not inflation, that’s a lie. The rent is too damn high!”

They demanded that SUV maintain current rent levels, provides greater transparency from administration, and that the University take over the Abercrombie Street housing project from a private company.

After the rally, campaigners sat on the lawns at SUV and discussed future actions. Undergraduate Fellow of Senate Patrick Massarani told protesters that to increase rent by 22 per cent over two years when inflation is at two per cent was “extortionate”.*

“It is unconscionable and we won’t stand for it,” he said.

Figures for September 2011 show an average rent increase of 11.6 per cent in Newtown, compared to SUV’s 2011 increase of 12.8 per cent. Sydney University Village’s General Manager Ron De Haan explained an independent market review indicated SUV was undercharging compared to the market. This year’s rental increases reflect management “catching up,” he said.

According to Mr De Haan, annual rents at SUV are set in consultation with the University as a minor financial co-owner. He believes the university’s presence on the management board has a positive impact in keeping increases lower than a totally privately operated facility.

But protesters are not satisfied. SRC Student Housing Officer, Eleanor Morley, told the crowd: “SUV proved what a disaster it is if the Uni sells to a private company.”

SRC Welfare Officer Rafi Alam told fellow campaigners their efforts must also be directed at the government, encouraging it to provide students with affordable housing.

Around campus, Mr De Haan points to a lack of beds driving the housing market. “If new facilities open up in the bracket of affordable housing,” he said, “people will gravitate towards the new beds whilst more expensive facilities will suffer.”

Not everyone is happy with the prospect of more university-provided housing. Residents’ concerns about the Abercrombie St Housing Project led the University into negotiations with community groups such as REDwatch (covering Redfern, Everleigh, Darlington, and Waterloo).

A spokesman for REDwatch, Geoff Turnbull, believes the negotiations haven’t been successful. Miscommunication had left residents with cold feet, he said. “Many residents feel manipulated rather than respected,” he told the South Sydney Herald. “The uni needs to revisit its approach if it really wants good neighbourly relations, not continued demonisation.”

Co-convener of the campus Greens and Student Housing Action Collective protestor Mr Wallin says something needs to be done about the situation. “University housing needs to go somewhere. The inner-west of Sydney is highly dense. There aren’t many free spaces. There is a way to strike a balance between [residents and students]… it certainly motivates us to do it better, to take into account their needs and rightly so.”


For a previous story on the $UV movement, click here.

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SUV rental jumps again to $256.80

Published in Honi Soit, p. 4, Week 10 Semester 2 Edition, 10 October 2012.
Click here to see it online.

honi p4 oct 10

Price hikes at Sydney University Village have set campaigners into battle against a lack of affordable student housing, writes Ada Lee

The minimum cost for a single bed in a four or five bedroom apartment at Sydney University Village has risen by more than 21 per cent over the past two years and will cost $256.80 a week in 2013. Rent prices jumped from $211.50 per week in 2011 to $238.50 in 2012 and now the announced rate for 2013 has increased by a further $18.30 per week including a $8.80 utility fee.

SRC Student Housing Officer, Eleanor Morley, believes the new fees are “well above market price.” She is now leading a ‘$UV’ campaign with a petition that has gathered 122 signatures. The petition says rental increases outstrip the rate of inflation and that the Village administration has “behaved abominably.”

Ms Morley stressed the need for the university to provide budget student accommodation in order to assist students from outside of Sydney, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, in gaining access to higher education. “You want to get the brightest minds around the country,” Ms Morley said. “Brightest minds don’t necessarily mean the richest parents.”

SUV General Manager, Ron De Haan, insists that according to what they deliver and what the market requires, SUV’s prices are fair. “It’s not price gouging and trying to take advantage of students by taking all the money and running,” he said. SUV determines ‘affordability’ as what is reasonable according to Australia’s property market, which recently, has “gone up and up and up. It can’t go on forever”, Mr De Haan said.

Every three years, the Village hires an external consultant to conduct a market review on student housing and privately owned rental properties in the area (including UTS housing).  Mr De Haan explains that the 2011 market review “indicated that this facility was way behind where the market dictated it to be”. The decision was made to align with market pricing over three years rather than in one leap so as not to punish a single cohort of residents. This year’s increase represents another step towards “catching up”, he said.

But the SRC petition suggests the new rates are “laughable.” “They’re not short of funds,” says Ms Morley. “They’re just trying to squeeze out as much money as possible.”

Mr De Haan points out he is running a business and has an obligation to the asset owners who expect returns from their investment. But he said he is happy to receive student feedback and will flag complaints to the owners. Though it will be difficult to change the 2013 rates, he says in the past increases have been withheld if the market has proven unwilling to pay.

Click here for the follow-up story.

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