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ANU & Canberra Housing

By Henry82 - 17 July 2010 26

I am a domestic student studying at the Australian National University, and recent headlines about people being kicked out of “slum housing” was a reminder i should write to the RiotACT and put my experience into words. I’m not writing this as a ‘whinge’, but more to share my experience with others, and hopefully provide enough attention on the issues of housing to have it fixed up so future students don’t have the same uncertentainty.

ANU Accomodation guarantees students accomodation for first year, undergraduate, and domestic students who are starting at ANU. When i first arrived, i met this criteria and found myself on the ANU campus in a College. I had a great time, met many friends and finished my year on a ‘high’. As soon as my final exams for first year ended, i went interstate the day after and started my holiday job (as per the contract). After University has already started for a semester, my contract ended and i went back to the same college. Another year passed, and the same occured again.

On the Wednesday before O-week started, i recieved an email from the College stating that “due to high demand” my application for this year had been rejected and that i was to find alternative accomodation as all colleges were full. Sh*t, I’m on the other side of Australia, with 3 days before i fly down to start another year, and the verbal guarantee from the “ANU Affiliated College” had fallen through. Some desperate calls to ANU Accomodation, i was able to scramble myself onto a waiting list for colleges.

A few days later i received a call from ANU Accomodation letting me know they had squeezed me in to one of the approved accomodation hotspots around Canberra. As you may have already heard, ANU hired 3 hotels, one in Belconnen, the other in Lyneham, and part of the Rex hotel in Dickson to cater for the huge demand for housing. I found myself with 100+ other ‘rejected’ students waiting until someone dropped out of uni, allowing us to take their place in College on campus.

Tonight, i had dinner with some new guests, the ANU students who were kicked out of the housing slum (mentioned yesterday on the RiotACT). After having a conversation with them, i had noticed that they had also been left out to find accomodation in a new country. They had used ANU Accomodations classifieds to find $150 per week accomodation out in Macquarie and had ended up in a housing slum with no where else to go.

He told me that each room was divided into “cubicles” with MDF, one family in each. The shed out the back, and the garage had also been converted into cubicles, each room had a power points and lights that had been wired by the owner. He told me he lived there because they had no where else to go, a new country and no accomodation guarantee.

I thought about this quite a bit, how many students are out there living in this ‘slum housing’? How many international students have experienced this Canberra slum lifestyle? What will that say to other students when they go home? What does this say about Australia’s number 1 University?

I thought about the alternatives there are on offer, and one of them was the privatised accomodation on the edge of the ANU Campus. For defamation purposes lets call it “runi lodge“, i think we can all work that one out. Students are required to sign a contract for the whole year in a “pay you money and shut the f**k” up kind of atmosphere. Halfway through 2009, I recieved a call from a very upset student who asked what he would do, his room had a light blow out, and reception wanted to charge him for the cost of the light bulb, and the time for a mainteance man to come and replace it. I told him that he already paid a $11/week maintenance levvy and that would be included and he should fight it. He eventually gave up and paid as he was an international student who didnt have the courage to fight the cost. Another student i had spoke to was fined $600 to replace a vinyl bench top that was scratched when they arrived. As they were the first students in the college, they were not required to fill out a room damage report, and he had to wear the cost of something that was probably caused by the builders.

Similar events had occured resulting in ANU calling up ‘Runi-lodge’ and forcing them to change a few of their rules. Firstly, 40 week contracts would be introduced, but would result in the 12 weeks of lost income being spread over the 40 weeks… i.e. Increasing the price to cover the cost. Kind of pointless in the first place?

Thats basically why i don’t trust these commercial colleges, and many others feel the same way. ANU has started building the container houses, mentioned last year. Those students have also been forced to sign year long contracts, even if they graduate at the end of the year, or want to go back home over the summer. You be thinking, well if they dont want the contract, they can find accomodation elsewhere. Well where? There was a reason why those were living in slums, and it wasn’t because they were cheap.

So there you have it, my ANU experience. My apologies if i’ve rambled, but i just wanted to put it all out there. I’ve posted this under an anonymous account, as i suspect there will be attempts to find my identity. I am a regular RiotACT reader, and have tried to contribute as much as possible to this site. My apologies Johnboy for create duplicate accounts.

Writing under the name,
Henry82

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
ANU & Canberra Housing
Icepoet 8:35 am 18 Jul 10

Henry82 said :

MrPC/thydungeonman – thanks for your comments. Alot of students don’t have cars, essentially forcing accomodation to be in the top half of canberra. I appreciate the support 🙂

Henry82 – tell me you’re kidding right? You (or any other student) has just received an offer for some cheap, decent accomodation in Weston Creek and you reckon that’s too far for an ANU student to travel to school every day? No wonder ANU students can’t find accomodation when you reject such offers as being unsuitable using the excuse that not all students have cars.

As a current uni student (who, like International works their arse off to pay for their studies) I orginally had some sympathy for your situation, but to insist that ANU students can only live Northside is just pathetic. The buses aren’t great in Canberra but I know plenty of people who live in Tuggeranong and bus it to UC every single day. For that matter I know plenty of people who live in Tuggeranong and bus it to work in the city/belconnen and visa versa.

As a matter of a fact it would probably be quicker for an ANU student to get from Weston Creek to the ANU (since they’d just have to catch a bus to civic and walk there), than a student from somewhere in west Belconnen. Geeze.

International 6:20 am 18 Jul 10

Quite an interesting topic. Thought I’d toss in a few lines about my experience so far. I’m an international student, been one for almost 3 years now. I came to Canberra without knowing anybody at all. I’m not saying I’m very ‘street smart’ and can work my way around any tight spot, but all I’m saying is all it took was a bit of common sense and talking to the right people and within a week (or two I think) I found myself permanent accomodation (not through the uni). What I’m saying is (most of you are going to label me an inconsiderate a$$ for it) most of these people were either too lazy to look around, or chose to live like that just to save a few extra bucks. I know that because I’ve been to a couple of houses like these and I’ve talked to the tenants. I’m not trying to brag about my success story but what I’m trying to say is that these people chose to come here (like I did), noone forced them, so if they’ve come this far (and I doubt it they hand out visas to people that dont meet a certain criteria) there is a high chance they arent stupid. You’re telling me they can’t find accomodation? I’m an international student and I know hundreds of international students that are living just fine, only because they chose to cough up the ‘few extra’ bucks for a decent accomodation.
Whats next? They dont have a proper job so they cant afford a decent place to stay? BOO HOO! Once again, no one put a gun to your head! Get off your bums and get a job, and if your current job doesnt pay much, GET A SECOND JOB! What pisses me off is that I work my ass off, in my 3 years stay so far I havent had a single night out, I work during normal uni days, and even during the holidays. I pay about 18K in tuition fees every year and still am able to afford a decent accomodation, a decent car and also get good grades at uni. Why? Because I simple chose to! AND SO CAN THESE PEOPLE! All they do is whinge about everything, if you have it so tough, go back to where you came from (I dont mean it in a racist or bad way). This just makes me sick.

Henry82 12:40 am 18 Jul 10

Hi guys, thanks for you comments.

Sandpiper/bd84 – thanks for your comments, i suspect the uni gives out a “accomodation guarantee” in order to attract students to Canberra to study. For the past few years the UAI for most courses has been 75, perhaps showing that the uni has had issues with low intakes? The tennancy issue is a sticky situation, there is a huge accomodation shortage and nobody will touch students with a 6 foot pole, because … they’re students.

Bd84 – i’m not angry at ANU accomodation (they have put a roof over my head), i just want more non privatised accomodation for ANU students. There are limited vacancies in the rental market, and in order to attract students to Canberra, we need some sort of guarantees for accomodation. I understand your concern over the “2nd hand” information, i spoke to these students directly myself. I don’t have signed statements from them, but yeah, perhaps just take the information with a grain of salt, i’m not trying to exaggerate the situation. Re username: my other account is not my real name, but 30 minutes on google would give more than enough clues/lead people to my details. I have a blog that helps prospective ANU students settle in, lets them know what to expect etc. Obviously this isn’t part of it.

MrPC/thydungeonman – thanks for your comments. Alot of students don’t have cars, essentially forcing accomodation to be in the top half of canberra. I appreciate the support 🙂

Justin/Heywood. – My apologies, perhaps i’ve mislead you? There were around 8 students (approx) who were “caught” in the slums and were transported by police to the ANU accomodation. Thanks to ANU for not throwing them on the street, but its still tough for students to find good accomodation near ANU and able to get it on a 40 week contract. Understandably landlords don’t want their houses unoccupied for 12 weeks a year, and would choose *anyone* over students with no credit history.
Screaming-Banshee – I think you should grow up, perhaps you should read the second sentence of my “whinge”. When i go home over the break, its not to sit on my ass and leach off my parents. I actually move interstate and work fulltime in order to gain work experience and earn money to stop myself “leeching” off my parents… and the government for that matter. If my Australian job was in Canberra, i’d love to spend the summer ‘house shopping’, but i’d rather earn money than being a leech. For the record i dont have government support – rent assitance etc (and have never applied for any).

Dr Strange is right, the government does make alot of money from international students.

Thanks, “Henry82”

bd84 11:26 pm 17 Jul 10

justin heywood said :

bd84 said :

The only thing it sounds like the ANU is guilty of doing is bring stupid enough to guarantee accommodation for first year students at a residence.

Yep, I agree. If the accommodation guarantee causes people to have to live as Henry describes, ANU should drop the guarantee.

ANU has been filling every car park with new buildings for 2 years now. Obviously they neglected to consider student accommodation as any kind of priority.

As ugly as the container Lego box is, they obviously need to build more of them.

@ Henry, were most or all of the residents of the slums ANU students?

All the carparks the ANU have been building on, except one, have been for new student accommodation. The huge carpark next bounded by Barry Dr and Marcus Clarke St will also be meeting the diggers in about a months’ time, that will create absolute chaos when 600 odd carparks disappear and an additional 3000 odd workers for the DEEWR building are added into the mix.

Clown Killer 10:20 pm 17 Jul 10

Things must have changed a bit in 20 years. When I left Bruce Hall I moved into a house accross the road in Turner with a couple of mates (three bedrooms for $140 a week). Landlord was grateful too seeing as it had been advertised for weeks and we were the first to call.

I’m still not convinced that it’s too hard to find accommodation. We’ve advertised on a number of occasions – a room with full board and use of a vehicle in return for child minding on senate estimates nights (Mondays). Never had anyone show any interest.

Tetranitrate 9:53 pm 17 Jul 10

WonderfulWorld said :

Housing Uni Students in the ACT has been a problem for over 20 years so I disagree with it just being a problem for “gullible middle to upper class Indian and Asian parents”.

A lot of the problem is that there’s been a squeeze from multiple directions.
– the ridiculously tight rental market in canberra in general, and the inner north in particular.

– the fact that the previous factor means that students who might otherwise move out of university accommodation after a year or two will try to stay for their whole degree.

– the fact that ANU has inadvertently engineered a parking crisis. Since ~2005 they’ve stuck buildings on top of almost all the surface parking. Thus making it far more difficult to commute to ANU from suburbs further out, where it’s easier to find housing, and again, the effect this knowledge has on people within existing student accommodation.
Simply retorting ‘use the bus!’ is BS. If you’re living out of walking distance of an interchange, you can easily find yourself spending more time on the bus than in class on days where you have say, a single lecture. Throw in work and the general state of the busses (like being passed by a full bus and therefore having to wait 1/2 hour for the next one) and no one in the right mind will move out to the situation where they’re in Palmerston or something and relying on busses.

– increased enrollments and importantly, the reliance on overseas students. Local students obviously live with parents, but even students from interstate, particularly those from around the Canberra area have a much easier time organizing accommodation outside of uni even in first year. More overseas students means more demand on accomodation in ANU residences and in Canberra generally.

Palifox 9:49 pm 17 Jul 10

@ screaming banshee.

Yeah right. But it’s 9.30pm when the light blows, the nearest likely shop is 1.5km away, (this is Canberra, remember) probably closed, you quite likely don’t even know where it is and you can’t reach the light fitting anyway without a ladder which you don’t have. I’ve been there, done that.

If he is paying $11 levy on top of rent every week for a service he is entitled to ask for it.

University students are not regular adults, they’re mostly little more than kids and they don’t know much outside school where they don’t have commercial (real world) considerations. I’ve known an Australian born 22 year old motor mechanic who didn’t know the difference between a cheque and a receipt and a mechanical engineer who didn’t know how to change a water tap washer. My landlord back in the day didn’t know either.

What chance has some 18 year old from overseas got?

Dr Strange 8:18 pm 17 Jul 10

screaming banshee said :

I can see that you’ve typed lots of words, but all I can read is “Wahhhhh, I dont want to have to look after my own affairs like a regular adult, why cant someone do it for me for free”.

Oh, and how many ANU students does it take to change a lightbulb? Get your arse down to shop, buy a lamp and change it, sheesh.

Actually it matter an awful lot. Tertiary education is now Australia’s number 3 export earner. Don’t look after your customers they go elsewhere – due to their dependency on overseas students they lose funds needed for facilities to teach domestic students. I was overseas for work a lot of last year in Asia and when the Indian student attacks were getting all the attention in Melbourne it was the one thing I could almost guarantee on being asked about no matter where I was. Image matters. (Ask Apple)

screaming banshee 7:23 pm 17 Jul 10

I can see that you’ve typed lots of words, but all I can read is “Wahhhhh, I dont want to have to look after my own affairs like a regular adult, why cant someone do it for me for free”.

Oh, and how many ANU students does it take to change a lightbulb? Get your arse down to shop, buy a lamp and change it, sheesh.

WonderfulWorld 7:23 pm 17 Jul 10

Housing Uni Students in the ACT has been a problem for over 20 years so I disagree with it just being a problem for “gullible middle to upper class Indian and Asian parents”.

justin heywood 7:00 pm 17 Jul 10

bd84 said :

The only thing it sounds like the ANU is guilty of doing is bring stupid enough to guarantee accommodation for first year students at a residence.

Yep, I agree. If the accommodation guarantee causes people to have to live as Henry describes, ANU should drop the guarantee.

ANU has been filling every car park with new buildings for 2 years now. Obviously they neglected to consider student accommodation as any kind of priority.

As ugly as the container Lego box is, they obviously need to build more of them.

@ Henry, were most or all of the residents of the slums ANU students?

thy_dungeonman 5:46 pm 17 Jul 10

Thanks for sharing your story, it really seems as though the government is cleaning up their own mess in terms of the slum-houses. Luckily my family lives in Canberra and I am able to stay at home, I can’t imagine trying to find another place to stay. Indecently we have a spare room we have been meaning to rent, the house is in waramanga (Weston creek),it’s very nice and very warm and I’m sure my parents would be charging on the charitable side. So if there are any students needing a good room (and I’m sure there are) let me know.

MrPC 5:42 pm 17 Jul 10

I wish I could say I was surprised by this post in some way. Unfortunately, I’m not. Universities in Australia are now simply a way to suck dry the bank accounts of gullible middle to upper class Indian and Asian parents.

Education doesn’t really matter there, nor does student welfare, and advancing this nation’s productivity by educating our own in a positive environment certainly doesn’t even rate a mention anymore.

bd84 5:39 pm 17 Jul 10

The only thing it sounds like the ANU is guilty of doing is bring stupid enough to guarantee accommodation for first year students at a residence. When they realised their mistake they seem to have gone to great lengths to get the additional places in the motels. As for the claims about the new private accommodation, given that the info you state is at least 2nd hand, the credibility of it isn’t as great. But if the claims are true, surely it should be something that needs taking up with the ANU again if nothing has changed.

Also, unless you were silly enough to use your real name as your user name, there would be little chance of anyone knowing who you are, plus who the hell would care? Seems a bit paranoid to me..

Sandpiper 5:35 pm 17 Jul 10

Hi,

There seems to be a nation wide accommodation shortage. I’m really suprised to hear that any university is giving accommodation guarantees because there is just such a high demand for housing throughout Australia, particularly with the large numbers of international students. Tertiary education is our third greatest export but it is also straining our accommodation market, especially in the cities.

As a tenant of many decades (including a quite dreadful stint with a student accommodation provider), I have noticed that tenant rights are not well understood in Australia and international students are certainly vulnerable for their lack of familiarity with our system.

You are probably already aware of the ACT tenants union:
http://www.tenantsact.org.au/

While the lot of international students is difficult there are also many thousands of people waiting for affordable housing who are citizens of Australia. I would think that if we continue to increase our intake of international students that the pressure on the housing market can only continue. Perhaps you could ask the local tenants union to run regular information sessions for all students or have a stall during O-Week?

There was recently a review of the Residential Tenancies Act:
http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/About_us/Legislation/Changes_to_legislation/Residential_Tenancies_Act_2010.html

I notice they have a ‘new interntional students guide’. None of this advice is going to affect the housing demand issues we have with increasing international student population funding the tertiary education sector.

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