In a cramped townhouse a dozen students—mostly from overseas—study, eat, and sleep mere paces from each other. Some students have lived out of cars or in meth dens. Some live with homophobic parents or with abusive relatives or partners. Most students who live out of the family home live below the poverty line.
The majority of students who rent suffer from “rent stress”. A large proportion of their incomes vanishes with rent payments, leaving the pocket strained when it comes to budgeting for expensive textbooks, other semester expenses, or medical costs for students with disabilities, particularly those with chronic illnesses.
Add to that the increasing attacks on welfare by the Abbott government that threaten the Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, and HECS itself, and you have a picture of students beset on all sides by the fickle forces of rent prices, neoliberal government policy, and an increasingly casualised and underpaid job market.
In the face of this, Sydney University plans to develop up to 5000 beds over the next five years. The question is whether they will be affordable and meet the needs of students. The Student Housing Action Collective is being reignited in order to campaign for several simple goals:
a guaranteed percentage of affordable accommodation
inclusion of a temporary accommodation service for students who are temporarily homeless and dedicated crisis accommodation for more extreme cases
an approach to housing that recognises the unique issues facing wom*n, queers, people of colour, Aboriginal people, international students, and people with disabilities.
But starting a collective and a campaign from scratch is tough. If you want to get involved, join the Student Housing Action Collective FB group. You can be involved to any extent, from just giving your input to throwing your heart and soul into it.