In the midst of an escalating housing crisis, Australia is witnessing a rapid increase in its international student population. Though the influx in July 2023 failed to surpass numbers seen in that same month two years prior, the overall influx for the year is anticipated to break all previous records.
From January to July in 2023, Australia welcomed a staggering 258,880 foreign students, marking a substantial 25% increase over the past peak in 2018. This fact, as revealed by the Institute of Public Affairs, means that the already heightened competition for housing is being exacerbated.
Countless Australians already struggling to find suitable homes now face mounting rivalry from abroad. This recent boom in newcomers has amplified concerns of an ongoing housing dilemma, leaving many locals with limited options.
The vacancy rate in Sydney has stagnated at about 1.5%, while Melbourne is somewhat more promising at 2.2%, and Brisbane faces a shocking 1% vacancy rate, indicative of a larger, systemic issue.
Brisbane, in particular, faces serious accommodation issues with specialist student dwellings reaching maximum capacity. Per Adina Cirson, acting executive director of the Student Accommodation Council, there is an absolute scarcity of student-specific accommodation, compelling these overseas students to join the already competitive rental market.
In response, the federal government, with support from the Greens, is looking to roll out a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) to mitigate the crisis. The fund intends to cover the construction of 30,000 new, affordable social homes over the initial five years.
Detractors such as Daniel Wild, Deputy Executive Director of the IPA, argue that these new initiatives inadequately meet the scale of the challenge, given the surge in the overseas student population. He asserts that the new agreement on the HAFF would create, at most, only 6,000 homes per annum over the next five years. This falls starkly short of meeting the expected deficit of 252,000 homes in this same period.
July 2023 alone saw an impressive 131,640 international students making Australia their temporary residence, reported the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This figure is almost double the arrivals in July the previous year, underscoring the urgent need for more effective and comprehensive housing solutions.