Oi Stanhope! How’s the affordable accommodation working out for you?

johnboy 15 February 2010 27

Every so often Our Chiefly Leader comes out and proclaims the wonders of his affordable housing programs.

More often than not they mean a few lottery winners get a sweet deal and the rest of the populations has been further shafted.

Last week the Canberra Times ran a story on the ANU’s desperate efforts to find places for all the students it promises accommodation to. Aside from putting up hundreds of students in hotels they’re begging for help:

Pro-vice-chancel lor (students) Professor Elizabeth Deane appealed to students on Wednesday to offer spare rooms in private or share houses to help meet the demand.

University Accommodation Services is running this warning for those students not fortunate enough to be guaranteed:

Due to the high demand for accommodation in Semester 1, if you did not meet the requirements of the accommodation guarantee you need to start sourcing off-campus accommodation now. Offers will continue to be made where vacancies arise due to cancellation; however there is only a small chance of this happening. The private market in Canberra is experiencing heavy demand and the estimated time required to secure accommodation is approximately 2-4 weeks. It is essential to organise temporary accommodation before you arrive. UAS staff can assist you with enquiries about off-campus accommodation. Please see below for more information.

It’s become so bad that informal community networks (rotarians, churches) are billeting out desperate international students foolish enough to enter this circle of hell. (And if certain Stanhopian cheerleaders want to deny that; there’s one in my parent’s spare room right now.)

So now the rents for those of us without a winning ticket in the government housing pools are not only unaffordable, there’s also a failure in market supply.

How much are we spending luring people here again?

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27 Responses to Oi Stanhope! How’s the affordable accommodation working out for you?
KidKenosha KidKenosha 6:56 pm 20 Feb 10

Just to keep driving the point, the market for share accommodation in Canberra at the moment is ridiculously tight. Unless you know someone with a room going (and these are hotly contested, especially at the start of semester), as a male student it feels nigh-on impossible to track down a suitable place. I use “suitable” to mean anything bigger than a broom cupboard in the Inner North, for less than $160 a week – public transportation being what it is in this city, I need to be within easy riding distance of the uni. I’ve been trying since the beginning of January, been to fifteen odd interviews and received no reply to at least twice as many emails (there’s a circle of hell reserved for people who don’t remove listings from Allhomes), and as far as anyone tells me anything I present as a friendly and acceptable housemate.

The sad fact of the matter is that there aren’t enough places out there anyway, and student groups lose preference to public servants when it comes to renting places out.

hax hax 1:10 pm 17 Feb 10

Why not just build a couple 50+ story apartment buildings, smack bang in the city.. ?

Ryoma Ryoma 9:18 pm 16 Feb 10

There are several things this city as a whole needs to wake up to.

Firstly, much of Canberra’s housing is pretty substandard by modern standards. I have seen places without heating – and they still get rented. Much of what is slightly above that appears to be built down to a price, rather than any thought being put into what tenants might actually be willing to pay more to live in. Many of these dumps cost a fortune to heat or cool, or you can hear the nieghbours on either side of you.

A question for landlords – ask yourself, would you want to live in the place you are renting out? If not, why not? And if you build a dump, why do you think any one would (a) respect it, and (b) wish to buy it later as is rather than run a bulldozer through it?

Secondly, while I enjoy being in the “bush capital”, as a city we are going to have get used to the idea of higher density. That doesn’t mean the sorts of towers that stick out 20 storeys high in Melbourne or Sydney, but it does mean places of maybe 5 or 6 storeys being built in terrace style, such as what is being done out at Crace (here- http://www.crace.com.au/#?/site/urban). Why are more developers not doing – these places are hotter than freestanding houses out there, but are still too pricey for many people to buy.

Many of the Baby Boomer generation need to be more accepting of the idea that not every house in Reid/Turner/O’Connor/Braddon/Griffith is a heritage masterpiece worthy of World Heritage listing, and not so horrified if higher density housing comes to live nearby.

Thirdly – understandably, many of the foreign students would like to live within walking or cycling distance of ANU. I don’t know what ANU has done with its housing in the past, but it doesn’t surprise me there is a crunch – turning up as an APS grad in 2008 I faced the same problems. I am living in the same cramped apartment I had then because there is nothing worth moving to that I can afford.

Any Canberran without a car will rationally choose to live along the radial bus routes, especially those with express services. This means wanting to live in or near the town centres, or along Northbourne Avenue through to Dickson and Lyneham. Anywhere else means a significant drop in options for shopping, entertainment, and accessibility in general.

But we have a lot of land in Braddon (for example) and elsewhere either covered in antique public housing or parkland. I’m not having a go at public housing, indeed I think the people living in such places deserve to be housed in places that are energy-efficient to heat and cool, and attractive rather than grey and run-down. Surely with modern architecture, we can find a way of better using these spaces for more people?

Another option is to look at renovating warehouses and the like in Fyshwick or Mitchell. Yes, they are zoned industrial, but other cities have achieved it, it simply requires a bit of vision and effort to think outside the square.

Let’s get beyond slavishly following the Griffin plan, which was planned for the time of horses and carriages, and act to reflect what Canberrans need now and into the future in terms of housing.

realityskin realityskin 3:52 pm 16 Feb 10

and rent going up is good, makes my investment more affordable 😀

realityskin realityskin 3:51 pm 16 Feb 10

I know someone who has 3 asians studying at the ANU boarding with her. She charges $300 each, includes everything including food.

trix trix 3:19 pm 16 Feb 10

Regarding the suggestion that students “think ahead” and rent group housing, have you actually tried to rent a house as a group in this bloody town?

2 years ago, two friends and I tried to rent a place as a group – all in our mid-late 30s, all professional, the other two married – our only requirement that it not be a dump and on the Northside. After several weeks of searching, the -only- offer we got was for a place in Flynn (which is nice enough, but a pain to commute to Civic from by bus).

Mothy Mothy 2:21 pm 16 Feb 10

Talking to someone from H&R Block last week (submitting 2008/2009 tax late – BAAAD!) my wife and I actually brought up the issue of renting out one of our rooms and whether we would have to declare this as income.

Major stumble was that if you rent it out formally, you end up forfeiting the capital gains tax exemption you have on the property as your family home. Cue a very big reason not to go down a formal road.


They did say that if you were to charge “board”, i.e. costs etc, and weren’t doing it “for profit”, you did not have to declare the income.

As with anything, seek your own professional advice, etc etc etc….

sloppery sloppery 1:37 pm 16 Feb 10

Australia is not the driest continent on Earth – that would be Antarctica.

There’s plenty of water in Australia, it’s just that the location is not always ideal. We need to be building more dams, across larger catchment areas, with more interconnecting piepelines between existing infrastructure.

It’s all very possible, we just think to think a bit harder.

Grail Grail 11:11 am 16 Feb 10

To all you folks who think that the answer to a “housing shortage” is to build more houses: where’s the water coming from?

What catchments are available in the Canberra region that provide drinking quality water, and which can be dammed without requiring the rezoning of wilderness area, eviction of farmers, or desecration of sacred sites? And on that note, if you’re going to kick out farmers, where’s our food going to come from?

Welcome to Australia, driest continent on the planet.

Fourty million population, my arse.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 12:44 am 16 Feb 10

It’s a strange thing, this apparent shortage of student accommodation.

Our professional and family circumstances are such that we would be grateful to have someone who could help in the mornings with getting children ready for school and to pick them up from after school care at around 6.00pm and supervise them until around 7.30pm. We’re flexible in that it wouldn’t have to be every night from Monday through Friday (but it would be every morning) and there are no other ‘extra’ tasks like cleaning or housekeeping as these are already taken care of.

In return for this assistance which amounts to around 3.5-4 hours a day on week days, we offer a room with full board, exclusive use of a fully serviced and maintained vehicle (including fuel), and a weekly cash payment of $220.00. To date we have not been able to recruit a Canberra based person into this role. On the up side we have met some really wonderful young folk from the US and UK who take advantage of the possibilities that the opportunity offers.

johnboy johnboy 10:13 pm 15 Feb 10

The point is that most people, out there in the real world, think that it shouldn’t be too hard to find a room to rent on a few weeks notice.

And then they come to the private domain of Jon Stanhope to learn that the rules are rather different.

sepi sepi 10:03 pm 15 Feb 10

ANU must have been crazy to guarantee accommodation in Canberra to students. This just confirms again that academics do not live in the real world.

On the rules of boarders: I looked into being a homestay few years ago. (offering a room for 200.00 a week, furnished, and 3 meals provided). I heard then that it was not counted as ‘income’ for tax purposes, as there is no way of working out how much it costs you in power/water etc. I didn’t see anything about land tax. Is having a boarder the same, technically, as ‘renting’ out a house?

It seems the going rate is about 220.00 now per room – best if you are near ANU though.

dereg52 dereg52 8:41 pm 15 Feb 10

This is an ANU issue.

Offering a guarantee to first year interstate/internations students can only work if they have sufficient accomodation already.

Guess what, they don’t. Meaning more people want rental housing, which is increasing competition and jacking up prices.

The market will always be skewed because students are up against well paid public servants.

TP 3000 TP 3000 8:39 pm 15 Feb 10

I’ve been told the main problem is $$$$$$. At the end of 2009, Canberra had a vacany rate of something in the range of 0.9. Now for the university’s & CIT have all increased there students numbers in 2010 by a few 1,0000 students.

Now only a low percentage of the extra few 1,000 live in Canberra & as such has accommodation. So where are the others to be housed?

-The ANU has constructed the shipping container complex & bought a few apartments around Canberra to house students.

-The UC has constructed/upgraded a huge area with quite a few rooms, so they haven’t been hit as hard as the ANU. But they have also been forced to purchase a few units around Belconnen.

cranky cranky 7:54 pm 15 Feb 10

Having a rapidly emptying nest, the thought of letting out rooms to students had crossed the family mind.

Basketcase’s comments (#9) put a whole diferent complexion on things. What are the rules and regs on this? Seems pointless to rent out a room for $150-$200 per week to then donate $75 to Sonic.

Perhaps a major reason for a lack of student accommodation?

bd84 bd84 7:49 pm 15 Feb 10

artuoui said :

The ANU sold off loads of residential properties that were previously available for student accommodation, going back ten years or so. Plenty of people were asking where ANU students who came to Canberra were supposed to live.

I can’t see why Stanhope should be blamed for the ANU’s short sightedness.

Stanhope did think of it, that’s why he sold off all the carparking in the city to the ANU to build 2 new student residences, with a 3rd on the way. He just doesn’t have enough of a brain to think of all the other consequences that were a result of doing this.

urchin urchin 7:38 pm 15 Feb 10

The ANU issue is a result of poor planning. They should have been predicting the growth in student population and doing something about it starting years back. Ultimately the VC needs to take responsibility for letting things reach this state of affairs.

Having said that, housing as a whole is a joke in the ACT. In this city, surrounded by (and including) lots and lots and lots of nothing there is no reason why houses should be as obscenely expensive as they are. The ACT gov’t is complicit in this, propping up prices by pricing new land even higher than surrounding, existing land. They have not kept their own promise to release affordable lots of land in the 60000-120000 range.

As the OP says, he pops out to say how much he is doing (to line the pockets of developers) and then disappears to count the money he’s made off of stamp duty, land sales and rates.

There needs to be a serious investigation in to the links between gov’t and property developers I reckon.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 4:09 pm 15 Feb 10

I’ve got three 2 bedroom units just finishing being renovated this week, and we already have paid up tenants waiting to move in. The rental market is unbelievably tight for anything that’s not a total dump (and even dumps get moved fairly quickly). People need to get smarter about this (ie setting up to share 4 bedroom homes). Unfortunately, some of the larger building projects are only just coming back on line after financing delays.

basketcase basketcase 3:59 pm 15 Feb 10

A problem is that once you rent out some rooms, you are up for land tax, about $3000 a year depending where you live. Over a 40 week year this represents another $75 per week you have to tack onto the rent.

Ends up kinda expensive for the student.

artuoui artuoui 2:52 pm 15 Feb 10

The ANU sold off loads of residential properties that were previously available for student accommodation, going back ten years or so. Plenty of people were asking where ANU students who came to Canberra were supposed to live.

I can’t see why Stanhope should be blamed for the ANU’s short sightedness.

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