News //

Student concerns rise with SUV rent

SUV has again opted to increase its rental prices sparking accusations it is taking advantage of students’ desperation for housing, reports Ada Lee

Sydney University Village (SUV) is set to raise prices again in 2014, with the cheapest four or five bedroom apartments to cost $271.50 per week. The change represents a $14.70 or 5.7 percent increase on this year’s prices. The increase will mean that SUV’s cheapest rooms are now $60 more expensive than they were in 2011.

Many residents have been left worried and are are asking why Campus Living Villages (CLV), the company responsible for SUV, has again boosted rates. Little explanation has been offered to students who are growing increasingly resentful, according to SUV resident Sophie Holt.

A spokesperson for CLV said that the company strives to deliver a safe and supportive environment that “provides value for money” to residents.

Along with market factors and customer surveys, CLV said “product upgrades” influenced pricing, pointing to various renovation projects such as repainting, carpet repairs, and work on the student common area, ‘The Well’.

However, long-term resident Camille* said these upgrades were “completely necessary” and should be “routine”. She did not think they justified the increases in rent. Camille reported seeing rats and cockroaches in the cooking areas during recent months. “The carpet was filthy, the walls were browning,” she said, “and The Well ceiling was literally collapsing”.

Considering that a five-bedroom apartment will cost a total of $1357.50 per week in 2014, Camille believes CLV is “ripping people off” even when taking into account Newton’s recent property market booms.

The University of Sydney owns 5-10 per cent of SUV, sharing with other private stakeholders. Together, they set the rent. The CLV spokesperson said they recognised the cost of living pressures faced by students but did not specify whether this affected pricing considerations.

CLV are the “bad guys” according to Camille*. She doubts whether ‘affordable housing’ is actually one of their aims. “It’s really about what they can get. They know that students are desperate for accommodation near campus so they can drive the price up and they’re well within their rights to”, she said. “CLV needs to turn a profit and so that’s what they’re doing.”

Statistics provided by CLV show an 86 percent customer satisfaction rating but that only 42.9 percent of 2012 residents reapplied in 2013.

Another resident, Georgia Hitch, believes SUV offers a great student service and community but does not believe the “incredibly exorbitant” rent increases are justified. “Saying ‘oh it’s really good and people will pay it’ is not a good enough reason. That dispels the whole idea of equity among students,” she said.

Residents emphasised the importance of student housing in making university accessible, particularly for rural and interstate students. Even though private rent in outer suburbs may be cheaper, Ms Hitch, who hails from Canberra, said it can be too daunting for non-Sydney students to consider when moving to an unknown city.

The news of SUV’s latest price adjustment comes as the University looks to increase its stock of student housing and enter into an agreement with a second party to develop and administer the Queen Mary Building. The failure to keep SUV’s rates down will increase pressure on the University to come to an agreement that minimises the potential for future rate rises.

Last year over 100 students rallied and circulated a petition when SUV announced rent would increase by $18.30 per week.

*Name has been changed