Changing rooms: Student towers may pivot into hotels

Australia’s biggest provider of student accommodation is moving to offer its rooms to other travellers as a way of coping with business uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Apr 12, 2021, updated Apr 12, 2021

The Scape group has approached Brisbane City Council for permission to open up its student accommodation complexes in South Brisbane and Wolloongabba to interstate visitors to the city.

It has asked the council to remove regulations preventing it from offering rooms to anyone other than students, saying this would allow it to offer alternative accommodation to people who did not want to enter into a traditional rental arrangement.

“Scape are hoping to host like-minded occupants within the building who are not students,” the company’s application to the council states.

“Examples include interstate travellers who do not want to sign a 6 or 12 month lease elsewhere but need to remain in Brisbane for 3 plus months or hospital workers who are assisting in the nearby Mater (hospital) with the COVID-19 response.”

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The company has six purpose built student accommodation facilities in Brisbane but has seen occupancy rates drop from 75 per cent to as low as 28 per cent as its primary market – international students – remain unable to enter Australia due to the pandemic.

Temporary permits to offer accommodation to non-students end this month and Scape now wants the council to allow it to suspend its student-only status until 2023.

Many of Scape’s Brisbane properties were built when the council was offering reductions in infrastructure charges to companies willing to develop student-only accommodation as a means of making living and studying in the city more attractive to overseas students.


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