Spotlight on Student Accommodation

By Justin Eslick

Student accommodation has been under the spotlight in Brisbane for about the last 12 months as more and more stories emerge of student houses being run poorly and/or illegally. Brisbane City Council has finally taken it's first step to addressing these issues, albeit the smallest of baby steps.

The Brisbane City Council has proposed changes to the town planning scheme that essentially brings the maximum number of unrelated people in a house down from 6 people to 5 people.

Not exactly a big step, given that the student accommodation that has made waves and the news desk have had between 10 and 15 students residing in them. Clearly, these were already operating illegally in the first place, so what difference does it make now if Council reduces the number of residents from 6 down to 5?

How do you improve on the approved? 

How exactly this change helps in relation to existing buildings anyway is unknown. Town Planning rules and regulations change all the time, just like building standards. There wouldn’t be a 50 year old building standing today that doesn’t fail at least one current building standard. Generally speaking, with regards to planning, providing a use is an approved use at the time it was established, then it can continue to be used until the use ceases. A prime example being blocks of flats that operate in what is now considered inappropriate zonings. This is very common, but they were approved at some stage so a change in zoning is not going to prevent their existence.

Local Laws

The issue of how to tackle student accommodation in a legal and appropriate manner is complicated, but perhaps one system is to introduce a Local Law in relation to these houses. In years gone by Brisbane City Council has had Local Laws to deal with boarding houses – this was until the introduction of state legislation that overruled these local laws and so they were consequently abolished. The trouble is the new legislation does not extend to student accommodation.

The introduction of new Local Laws specifically targeting student accommodation will give council the power to inspect, assess and register (certify) student accommodation as legal and appropriate.

The Brisbane City Council has a long way to go before the issue is finalised, but it is clear that the step(s) taken so far are not enough.

Educate yourself some more

The issue of student accommodation has been raised at a number of Reno Kings workshops. For a long time we have stated that there is a grey area when it came to 6 bedroom student accommodation as State Legislation states one thing and the Brisbane Planning Scheme another. It appears that finally this grey area has been addressed; now we just need to address the existing illegal dwelling in order for student accommodation to break loose of its tarnished reputation.

We reiterate that the most appropriate student accommodation in Brisbane in terms of management and compliance are 5 bedroom houses, however, be aware that it is an ever changing landscape.

For more information of Reno Kings workshops click here.

Developing for Profit

We are also hosting our second Developing for Profit Workshop in November 2008 in Brisbane. Here you will hear all about our new 'development niche', as well as learn from the experts how to develop for success while avoiding the pitfalls. For more information click here.

Further background information

Investigate Property members can click here for further background information on Student Accommodation in Brisbane (may require login).

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