Students converge on NSW Parliament to call for affordable housing

“We are seeing people turfed out of their homes. There are lines down the block just to wait to inspect unsuitable apartments full of mould, and that’s just the start.”

Approximately 40 protesters gathered outside NSW Parliament House on Friday evening to call for more affordable housing. Organised by the NUS’ Get a Room – Students for Affordable Housing campaign, the protest brought together a number of activist groups across UNSW, Macquarie and USyd. 

The crowd was received by a largely interested public, some of whom filmed whilst others simply observed. A few passerbys joined the march along the way, one commenting that “the show of solidarity [was] inspiring”. Police kept a distance as they surrounded the protest at its stops through the CBD.

The rally was chaired by UNSW SRC Education Officer Cherish Kuehlmann – arrested in February for “aggravated trespass” while protesting inside the Reserve Bank of Australia.  – who led initial chants demanding action. Summer Hill Greens candidate Izabella Antoniou lamented the state of the property market for marginalised communities, remarking that “First Nations communities are being further dispossessed on their own land.”

“New South Wales has become a dodgy landlord state, with property developers and investors reigning supreme,” Antoniou stated, denouncing special treatment given to investment property owners. 

“We are seeing people turfed out of their homes through triple-digit rent hikes. There are lines down the block just to wait to inspect unsuitable, untenable, unliveable apartments full of issues like mould, that’s just the start.” 

Protestors marched from NSW Parliament to the Reserve Bank of Australia building,

finally rallying at the Property Council of Australia on Barrack Street. 

As protestors rallied outside the Property Council of Australia, Kuehlmann identified housing as a human right, demanding “the democratisation of housing” and “the immediate building of public housing”.

SRC Education Officer Yasmine Johnson expressed the Education Action Group’s desire to galvanise action.

“We’re hoping to mobilise young people to fight for housing justice, and to draw attention to the issue more generally. We want caps on rental prices, an end to no-fault evictions, serious expansion of public housing, a commitment to low-cost student housing from universities, and more,” said Johnson.

“We’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis which in particular has seen rental prices skyrocket. Students are forced to wait in queues, sometimes of 50+ people, just to inspect a sharehouse, which they’re often only able to get if they can afford to take part in rent bidding. We know there are plenty of empty properties in Sydney – over 160,000 of them, in fact. But landlords are deliberately keeping lots of them vacant in order to hike rental prices.”

“I think it’s important that students across campuses come together as part of protests to demand real and immediate action on the housing crisis. It’s great to be part of a campaign that can involve so many different campus activist collectives,” Johnson told Honi.

Ultimately, the consensus amongst protesters was clear: the action won’t end until landlords, developers, the government and university management confront the impact of the housing crisis on students, young people and renters.