Today the student accommodation inquiry initiated by Green Party Tertiary Education spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick tabled its report in Parliament.
Recommendations include establishing an independent dispute resolution process that can provide compensation, previously cut off to students unable to access the Tenancy Tribunal through exclusion to the Residential Tenancies Act, and requiring proactive transparency of services, costs and expectations published online.
“Everyone, regardless of whether they are studying or not, deserves a secure home where there is a fair power balance between the tenant and the landlord,” said Chlöe Swarbrick.
“We pushed for an inquiry after the COVID-19 lockdowns exposed a substantially under-regulated student accommodation system. Thousands of students were charged for accommodation that they couldn’t stay in and were threatened with their grades being withheld if they didn’t pay.
“Student accommodation has historically been excluded from the Residential Tenancies Act rights and obligations. Students in student accommodation have not had access to the Tenancy Tribunal, leaving them vulnerable to massive power imbalances that exists between students, universities and accommodation providers and no clear pathway to resolve substantive problems.
“We heard some really harrowing stories during our inquiry from students who spoke of discrimination, poor treatment with mental health disclosures and experiences far short of the inclusive community and support promised in marketing.
“The Greens were the only party to wholeheartedly agree with student representative organisations who advocated for a universal, not-for-profit operation model for student accommodation, to bring about a shift in focus from commerciality to wellbeing. Doing so aligns with our vision of a tertiary sector that prioritises learning and wellbeing over bums-on-seats.
“I want to thank the students who spoke their truths to get these outcomes today, which in turn have contributed substantially to the Government’s Draft Dispute Resolution Process and Proposed Code of Practice, which our Inquiry recommends adoption and the ongoing monitoring of. I understand the Education and Workforce Committee will request the Business Committee grants a special debate to this issue given the years of work that has gone into it.
“We celebrate this enormous step for fairer and better outcomes for students, and will continue our ongoing work for a tertiary sector that prioritises learners.”