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University of Auckland student accommodation residents strike over ‘unaffordable’ rent increase

30 April, 2024

Interviews by Oto Sequeria and Shane Tozier, adapted by Ashley-Rose Redstone

After calling out the University of Auckland (UoA) for hiking average rent prices by 8.2% at its halls of residence this year, many students are withholding their rent payments. 

The student-led advocacy group, Students For Fair Rent (SFFR), has announced a rent strike at the University of Auckland's (UoA) halls of residence, with 165 students participating. 

This comes after the University announced an average rent increase of 8.2% for its catered halls and 7.3% for its self-catered halls in 2024.

At a town hall meeting on UoA’s city campus on 19 May, which was attended by dozens of students, SFFR Chair, Matthew Lee, told 95bFM the response from the University has been “disappointing”.

“The leadership at the University refuses to acknowledge [student accommodation prices] are a real problem. The lecturers have been very supportive.”

In a petition signed by more than 1500 people, SSFR called on the University to ensure their student accommodation costs are in line with inflation, average wage increases, average rent prices in central Auckland, and income support students receive from the government.

This year, student accommodation at the University of Otago has increased by 3%, which Lee believes is more reasonable.

“The campaign's position has always been that we are open to working with [the University] to find a solution that works for everyone.”

Lee believes UoA has a responsibility to provide “safe, secure, and affordable” accommodation and engage constructively with its students.

“Housing is a human right and affordable housing is a human right.”

Green Party Co-Leader, Chlöe Swarbrick, who was present at the gathering, told 95bFM the proposed rent increases could lead students into poverty and have detrimental effects on their education.

“We will see people having to drop out of study, which in turn impacts our future doctors, nurses, mental health workers, researchers, scientists, and ultimately the wellbeing of the entire country.”

A Green Party led inquiry into student well-being published in 2022 found University accommodation was largely unaffordable and pastoral care expectations by student accommodation providers were not being met.

Swarbrick encouraged students to "realise their collective power" to call for change, namely removing the exemption of student accommodation from the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, which means students cannot consult the Tenancy Tribunal to enforce their rights.

"Landlords represent approximately 120,000 people in this country, students outnumber them more than three times over at 400,000."

“If those 120,000 landlords feel real entitled to get outcomes from this government, it is time for students to take that same approach.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air