Rent increases bite for apartment dwellers
Rent increases of as much as 40 per cent have been reported by residents of Southbank since the lockdown finished last year, with international students particularly vulnerable.
New data from REA Group shows that the median weekly rent in Southbank, which dipped as low as $410 in late 2021 after extended COVID-19 lockdowns, had already jumped to $470 this August.
Locals have reported rent increases in recent months, and those who signed on to reduced leases during the pandemic were now feeling the squeeze.
Southbanker Laura, a chef who works in the CBD, says she is paying $650 a week for her two-bedroom apartment in Queensbridge Street.
She finished a Masters of Business Administration last year and is now working in a kitchen.
Last year her rent was only $450, with subsidies from the landlord.
“They said ‘please don’t leave during the pandemic’,” she said. “They gave us a grant.”
She wants to stay in Southbank, but says that no one helps international students.
“You have to work for your rent. If I was a permanent resident I’d buy.”
Entry-level jobs for international students typically pay in the range of $3000-$4000 a month.
This is putting pressure on their ability to make ends meet, with additional cost-of-living increases of late due to inflation.
Angelina, a former student, is in a similar boat to Laura.
The rent for her one-bedroom apartment went up in July from $1430 to $1747. That’s an increase of 24 per cent.
“Almost half goes on rent plus Wi-Fi, water, gas and electricity,” she said. “Honestly, you have to change your lifestyle. Then there’s the cost of living as well.”
She says she is not worried about the future.
“I’m faithful, go to church. I have a positive attitude. My landlord and agent are good.”
She said that her rent had been the same for two years and six months.
“I think it (the rent increase) is fair, but not fair at the same time.”
Locals who have moved into the Southbank rental market say that increases depend upon when the lease was drawn up.
“I moved in eight months ago,” said Declan. “I got in at the right time.”
He got a good deal and rented a two-bedroom flat for $470 a week.
He said “it’s still hard work” making ends meet, but even he has the jitters. “It might be too early” to relax, he said.
Many would like to buy an apartment, but this is not an option for international students.
Interest rates have increased during the same period but “mortgage repayments are not too bad” says Daniel, one resident who managed to buy a place.
“I’m a Kiwi. My wife’s Polish. We live on the other side of Kings Way,” he said.
“I knew low interest rates wouldn’t last. When I applied for a mortgage it was calculated, the fixed part at seven per cent. We’re well below that,” he said.
What has got him concerned, though, was the sight of a bag of beans at South Melbourne Market for $20. •
Photo caption 1: Daniel: opted to buy an apartment
Photo caption 2: Angelina: her rent increased by 24 per cent in July
Photo caption 3: Declan: he got in at the right time