More accommodation needed as Chinese students return: PCA

A proposed Scape student accommodation complex at the Melbourne/Carlton border.

A snap edict by the Chinese government forcing university students to return to face-to-face learning in their country of study will put further pressure on the already tight purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector, according to the Student Accommodation Council.

A report released late last year by the Student Accommodation Council – an arm of the Property Council of Australia – showed many Australian cities were already at capacity for purpose-built  student accommodation beds, with Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide expecting zero vacancy rates in 2023, well before the Chinese government’s announcement.

Executive Director of the Student Accommodation Council Torie Brown said the 2022 data showed Chinese students (making up 27 per cent of all residents) and domestic Australian students (26pc) were the biggest two cohorts living in purpose-built student accommodation, together accounting for more than half all residents in PBSA.

“With students scrambling to return earlier than expected, we will see student accommodation full in many markets – which will put pressure on already tight rental markets as students look elsewhere for places to live,” Ms Brown said.

“Data released by Savills showed the supply pipeline for purpose-built student accommodation beds is muted for the next two years – with 100pc of the new beds coming online in 2024 located in Sydney and Melbourne (continues below).

“Governments at all levels need to prioritise the development of new student accommodation because it provides appropriate housing exclusively for students and stops them competing with mums and dads in the rental market.

“Expedited planning approvals, removing taxes like foreign investor fees and planning systems that prioritise student accommodation close to places of study should all be a top priority for policy makers,” she said.

For a copy of the report, contact author Torie Brown at

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