Scape Australia plans to open up its student accommodation to essential workers and interstate travellers as it waits for international students to return to the country.
The group applied for a temporary change of use for its Atria South Brisbane property until the end of February 2023, providing accommodation for non-students in the 88 Ernest Street building.
This will “allow the applicant to effectively manage the impact Covid-19 has had on their Brisbane assets [six buildings in total]” according to the application.
“Prior to Covid-19 [December 2019], building occupancy in Brisbane was at 75 per cent currently the assets have an occupancy rate of 28 per cent as Scape’s primary market is international students,” the report stated.
“The proposed ‘other change’ will allow Scape to use the vacancies in its buildings to offer the Brisbane housing market an alternative to typical renting models [share houses and the like].
“Scape are hoping to host like-minded occupants within the building who are not students.
“Examples include interstate travellers who do not want to sign a six- or 12-month lease elsewhere but need to remain in Brisbane for three-plus months or hospital workers who are assisting in the nearby Mater with the Covid-19 response.”
This is the second time Scape has tried to change the use of the building—that proposal was rejected by the council in August last year due to parking and transport issues.
Overseas arrival numbers remain at record lows, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which recorded a 99.1 per cent drop in visitor arrivals in February compared to the same period last year.
To shape a recovery for the industry, federal education minister Alan Tudge announced a 10-year, whole-of-sector international education.
In 2019 there were 750,000 international students studying in Australia, accounting for a third of university enrolments.
“In 2019, we started the year with around 480,000 continuing international students, while another 150,000 entered Australia to study in the first half of the year, and a further 130,000 in the second half,” Tudge said.
“Closing the borders, of course, had a significant disruption on the international student sector.
“That normal pattern was not possible last year. While some started online, many also deferred their studies, preferring to wait until travel is again possible.”
Despite a lack of international students in 2020, Scape continued to expand its Australian portfolio, purchasing 252 serviced apartments in the Aurora Melbourne Central building for $125 million in November.
The group also lodged plans for four student towers on each corner of an intersection in Kensington and Kingsford near the University of New South Wales.