There is a long history of student accommodation in Glebe. When I was at University most of my friends lived in digs in Glebe or in similar suburbs nearby, always in cheap and unrenovated rooms, frequently in share houses in close to original condition, or worse. Nevertheless, most people look back on those days with pleasure. Poverty and hardship are much easier to bear when your friends are in the same boat, and you know they are temporary! Quite a few of those students later bought houses in Glebe, and together with academics formed, and continue to form, a significant segment of the Glebe Society.
Those days are long gone, and apart from the 20% of social housing in Glebe, so has most of the cheap housing. There are still students, but the type of accommodation they are now seeking is different. In my day there was one university: now there are three. There was one major TAFE college: now training colleges abound. And, of course, there are now five schools, one of them for boarders and another a senior college, and there are more schools nearby (also set to increase – see the April planning report).
Australian universities are now a major destination for overseas, fee-paying students, so as well as the absolute increase in students there is a significant demand for student accommodation in this area, a demand not met by householders letting rooms.
Because of the economic importance of this group of students there has already been a surge, first in converted accommodation, and more recently, purpose built facilities. The University Village in Carillon Ave is a good example, if you want to get an idea of what is now expected. Unilodge, the part of the original Grace Bros complex on the other side of Bay St in Broadway is another, even closer, example.
The City of Sydney is under pressure to approve new student accommodation, but it does not have a specific set of controls. Instead, it attempts to deal with proposals under its existing Boarding House controls. Clearly this is not satisfactory. The needs and expectations of students are very different from those of traditional boarding house residents. At present there is also the issue of overcrowding of sublet apartments, which has a significant impact on other occupiers of apartment buildings. Many of those squeezed into these apartments are likely to be overseas students of one kind or another.
The former University Motel, 25 Arundel Street, has already approval for ninety-three student rooms. This derelict site is long overdue for redevelopment, and the site is close to the University of Sydney and to existing student hostels in Arundel Street and Glebe Point Rd. There have been a number of inappropriate applications for the site, and the Society has supported student accommodation, provided the amenity of nearby residents is protected.
Recently there has been a proposal from Urbanest, a UK based provider of student housing, to increase the number of rooms from 93 to 137. Naturally this will increase the impact of the development, and the Society has written raising a number of concerns we believe have not been adequately dealt with by the applicant. Urbanest has already had two hostels approved by the City, and the Society is especially concerned because of the lack of appropriate guidelines. The Society has also requested the City to develop a Plan for student accommodation to deal with what is likely to be a strong and continuing demand.