University of Auckland students launch campaign against campus rent hike

Article by Kexin Li

Reposted from Te Waha Nui

Published on Tue Aug 29 2023

University of Auckland students are rising up against the burgeoning cost of student accommodation on campus.

Students for Fair Rent’s (SFR) campaign started after students learned the university was to increase its accommodation prices by an average of 8 per cent in 2024.

The campaign wants to ensure “safe, secure, and affordable accommodation on campus”.

The group has launched a survey to help it understand student renters’ situation better and is planning to launch a petition in September.

Data from Statistics NZ shows on average Auckland’s listed rental price has increased by 7.1 per cent since last July.

A university spokesperson said the hike was the result of many operational cost increases, including food prices increasing by 12 per cent and a living-wage increase of 10 per cent.

SFR chair Matthew Lee said students understood the university was facing higher costs, but the price hike was way above current inflation and that rent had already increased by 8 per cent since 2022, when the inflation rate was lower.

He said students thought it was “absolutely unfair”, especially for international students, out-of-town students, or people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

“They rely on the university to provide safe, secure, and especially affordable housing.”

In 2024, a first-year student can expect to pay between $470 and $510 a week for a room and three meals a day. A non-catered room will cost between $310 and $355.

On top, students are expected to pay a non-refundable $300 application fee and $330 annual residential services fee, as well as a $950 upfront payment for rent.

This means students need to find $1580 before moving in.

Currently, the university offers beds to 4371 students around its CBD campus.

Private accommodation is also available for students. A single studio offered by student accommodation company UniLodge costs from $250 to $370.

The university spokesperson said university accommodation was not covered by any earnings made by the university, and all costs must be covered by residents’ fees.

“If we do not cover all [accommodation] costs they must be met by the university through funding that would otherwise be spent on teaching and research,” said the spokesperson.

Domestic students have the option to ease the pressure through student loans or student allowances.

“For students who have student loans or student allowance, [what they receive] doesn’t cover rent. So they have to work extra hours, which means taking time out of their study and that affects their mental well-being and their studies,” said Lee.

The allowance for a student living away from home is currently $300 and they may be able to receive $60 to cover their accommodation cost.

For students ineligible for a student allowance, domestic students can borrow a living-costs loan of $302.32 per week, which is still not enough to cover the cheapest room offered by the university.

International students cannot access StudyLink funds.