Monday, September 15, 2008

Overseas students compete for Melbourne rentals

AUSTRALIA (excerpt from ABC Radio): In the first of three special reports on education, we look at the housing crisis facing international students here in the Australian city of Melbourne. With high house prices and lots of rental competition, the challenge facing overseas students in finding a place to live can be overwhelming.

Presenter: Kate McPherson
Speakers: Danielle Hartridge from Victoria University; Toby Archer, Tenancy Union of Victoria, Australia; Nicole Vandendungen, Hocking Stuart Real Estate Agents, Melbourne

MCPHERSON: Last year the Australian Government granted student visas to over 228,000 international students. Melbourne is currently home to over 11,000 international students, most coming from South and North East Asia. Finding adequate accommodation for everyone is very difficult as these international students at Melbourne University explain.

JAPANESE STUDENT: I was trying to find a house through a website but I couldn't find one with a good prices and it is hard for me because I couldn't speak English well. And at the moment I'm living with friends in the same room, so I'm still looking for a house.

MALAYSIAN STUDENT: Prices seem to be quite high here in Melbourne.

CHINESE STUDENT: It's really hard to find a house because the prices are really high if you find any place near the city and there are no rooms available after the semester begins.

MCPHERSON: Another student from Malaysia is on a scholarship which assists in his payments but he says there are still challenges.

STUDENT: It is difficult especially for international students, the landlords prefer local I suppose.

MCPHERSON: Here at RMIT's city campus international and local students are having their regular game of basketball.
When you first came to Australia did you find it hard to find somewhere to live?

THAI STUDENT: It took about one to two months to find a share house.

MCPHERSON: So you were happy when you found an apartment?

THAI STUDENT: Yes very happy?now we have a home.

MCPHERSON: International students searching for accommodation are particularly susceptible to being misled because their knowledge of tenancy laws is minimal. Many students sign contracts that effectively remove legal safeguards.
Prospective students are urged to do thorough background checks before they sign anything. Toby Archer is from the Tenancy Union of Victoria an organisation which represents the interests of those who rent accommodation.

ARCHER: Key advice to students that have fallen pray to a shonky operator is to seek help and they shouldn't be afraid to seek help either from Tenants Union or University Housing.

MCPHERSON: Mr Archer says Universities play a key roll in providing housing for students.

ARCHER: In the context of plummeting rental affordability the key thing is that universities need to invest in additional housing for their students when the opportunities arise.

MCPHERSON: Victoria University is addressing the lack of accommodation. International Student Support manager Danielle Hartridge.

HARTRIDGE: International students are no different from local people in that they are finding it hard to get accommodation. We have at least three private developments that are going up around the campus. Australia's Reserve Bank this week reduced interest rates for the first time in nearly seven years. Vacancy rates may increase slightly but will prices decrease? Nicole Vandendungen from Hocking Stuart:

VANDENDUNGEN: Prices in the rental market will stay relatively the same now. I don't think we will have the dramatic increase as we have seen over the past 12 - 18 months.

MCPHERSON: Danielle Hartridge from Victoria University has some final advice.

HARTRIDGE: There are a lot of accommodation options that are available, there's a number of private organisation that do offer home stay that have a number of families on their books. I think this is an option that some students will have to start considering rather than the private rental market because it is going to become more and more difficult.

Source: ABC Radio

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