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Overseas students are flocking to WA. Here’s where they’re not living

ARTICLE BY Marketing

Originally published by Holly Thompson in WA Today, June 21 2024.

More student accommodation is desperately needed in Western Australia, experts say, to accommodate growing demand from both domestic and international students.

At a panel discussion on Thursday, property experts and investors from the eastern states gathered in Perth to discuss what needs to be done to support the growth of education, particularly within the city centre.

International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood said the industry was playing catch-up on purpose-built student accommodation in Perth.

He believed you could quadruple the number of beds in the CBD alone and still not meet the demand.

“Particularly with the ECU campus – that is going to act as a real drawcard for both domestic and international students to live in the CBD area,” Honeywood said.

“But there really are not many options that would support this movement.”

Lease Equity managing director Jim Tsagalis said a shift in mindset was needed, particularly from the state government, in supporting purpose-built student accommodation.

“I think their view is that student accommodation won’t help [with the housing market] so why do any more when you have a housing crisis to fix,” Tsagalis said.

“I think the state government needs to put a different lens on it.”

Scape is one of the major owners of purpose-built accommodation across Australia, but does not have a single building in WA.

Chief executive Anouk Darling said purpose-built accommodation would help alleviate the pressure on the rental market in WA, which is extremely low at 0.4 per cent.

“[Student accommodation] absolutely should be considered as part of the solution,” she said.

“Here is WA there are 27 students for every purpose-built accommodation bed which shows there is a huge undersupply.”

While Perth has other options for students, they can be hard to find given the market pressures. Purpose-built accommodation also guarantees no rental increases and includes bills.

A new $80 million student accommodation hub was the most recent approval for the Perth CBD, and will provide a further 835 beds.

Honeywood said what Perth had lacked for a long time was a vibrant CBD, but the old joke that everything closed at 5pm was slowly changing largely thanks to students – another reason to encourage student accommodation.

Tsagalis agreed, stating: “We have a sandstone university, UWA, that sits very favourably in rankings, we’ve got a performing arts university coming to the city that is globally renowned, and Murdoch and Curtin are very well regarding in pockets, so I just think there is a lot more we can do.”