Spare uni beds to be converted to emergency housing

Vacant university accommodation will be ready to use for emergency housing by midyear as some Queensland renters report weekly increase of $100 or more.

The repurposing of 200 student beds at a Griffith University campus in Brisbane was among the measures announced during a state government housing summit in October.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the facility will provide a buffer for Queenslanders doing it tough while they try to get back into the rental market.

“The housing crisis has hit many Queenslanders who have never before found themselves homeless and we are committed to turning this around,” he said on Wednesday.

Works to prepare the complex include floor plan alterations giving residents a small living area with kitchen and bathroom facilities to be shared.

It comes as data shows average rent increases of almost $100 a week among people seeking advice from Tenants Queensland since January 1.

The largest amount was $325 a week, and more than half reported an increase of more than 20 per cent.

A total of 80 people have been in contact with the organisation since the start of the year, and only four reported an increase of less than $20 a week.

Some restrictions exist in Queensland, such as limiting rent increases to once every six months, but tenants generally don’t have much room to challenge amounts.

“There are parts of the law that say if the rent increase is excessive you can challenge it in different ways, but one of the tests … is comparisons in the market,” Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr said.

Limiting increases to the consumer price index, or just above, would relieve tenants of the pressure of trying to predict how much their rent would rise, she said.

“If they’re more than that there has to be a justification from the other side about why it’s worth more now,” Ms Carr said.

Just six of the 80 people in contact with Tenants Queensland reported rent increases that were less than CPI.

Mortgage-holders face increasing repayments amid rising interest rates, but Ms Carr rejected the idea that landlords were simply passing on costs to renters.

“I don’t think that’s the reality,” she said.

“(Rent) is set by the market. It’s supply and demand.

“We didn’t see them go down when interest rates were virtually zero.”

The government announced a $50 million package following the October summit, including $12 million to help 2500 people stay in their leases and avoid homelessness.

Sustained increases in interstate migration and a materials and skills shortage in the construction industry are affecting the market, a government report following the summit says.

“These pressures have been felt across the board, most acutely by Queenslanders renting or aspiring to rent at the lower-priced end of the private market,” the report says.


Nick Gibbs
(Australian Associated Press)


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