A group of students began occupying a building owned by Melbourne University last week demanding an end to the student housing crisis. The property located in the inner Melbourne suburb of Carlton has been left vacant since 2005.
The students who are organised in a group called the Student Housing Action Collective (SHAC) are demanding that Melbourne University make provisions to turn the property into an affordable student housing co-operative managed by students.
SHAC spokeswoman Anja Kanngieser told the Socialist Party that a recent study showed that 440 Melbourne University students were effectively homeless, relying on the kindness of friends or others to get a bed at night.
“The problem is there’s just not enough rental properties and prices are skyrocketing. A lot of students are low income earners and many receive welfare and it’s very hard to get affordable rental properties, especially when you’re on a Centrelink payment” Kanngieser said.
Students across the country are struggling on meagre incomes and forced to work long hours to the detriment of their studies just to pay the rent. The situation is even worse for international students.
International students often arrive with no idea of the current housing crisis. Universities are complicit in the exploitation of international students, treating them as cash cows without providing adequately for their welfare.
The students have plans to turn the property into a community hub which, along with accommodation, would also have a bike workshop and art gallery.
SHAC are currently in negotiations with Melbourne University, but have made clear that they will continue the occupation for as long as it takes.