The University of Melbourne will open accommodation in Carlton for nearly 650 students in semester one 2016, as part of a plan that adds to colleges as the primary form of student housing.
It is part of a plan to create 2000 student bedrooms by 2020 to combat the rising inner-city rent prices and compete with universities who are offering a greater capacity for on and near campus accommodation.
The accommodation will be built in conjunction with Campus Living Villages, the organization that currently manages RMIT Village. Campus Living Villages will operate the accommodation for 38 years before transferring it to the university under what is known as a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) contract.
The university’s business strategy noted that other universities appeal to international students by guaranteeing first year accommodation.
Student housing is very lucrative for universities because of guaranteed rents from the continued growth in student numbers—particularly from the increase in demand from international students. Low levels of competition in a captive market are also a factor, leading to higher rents.
Greater competition in student housing could dampen the appeal of on campus colleges, especially for those who want cheaper accommodation. But third year student and Whitley College resident Emma Zagami said the experience and services offered by a college cannot be replicated by competitors.
“College pushes you into activities, forces you to interact with others through set meal times and gives you opportunities if you’re interested in drama, debating, and sports,” she said. “They also have good facilities like computer labs and printing, chapels, and music practice rooms so you don’t have to go to uni to practise.”
She said solitary rooms without a social emphasis on community wouldn’t have the same appeal as colleges.
But the argument is not one that most students are bothering to have. The high inner-city rents have left a generation of undergraduate students choosing to live at home.
A report by the state government released earlier this year connected a lack of university students from rural and regional centres and the lack of affordable housing near the metropolitan universities.
Second year Commerce student Cam Chapman, who comes from Silvan, said rent prices have forced him to waste his time commuting. “The cost of inner-city living makes it unaffordable and relegates country students like myself to a life spent on public transport, where a one hour tutorial cuts five hours out of the day,” he said.
The new 5 Green Star sustainability rated building will be located at 108-128 Leicester Street.