The developers, Frasers and Sekisui, are proposing a 14-16 storey building providing 688 specialised student apartments. Block 4S on the corner of Abercrombie and Irving streets was initially intended for commercial use. Frasers Marketing Manager, Lisa McCutchion, said: “Our proposed student residencies will be delivered under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) which requires that the properties be offered to the market at 20 per cent less than market rent.”
Many in the community, however, feel the developers are driven by economic considerations, wanting to recover costs with the NRAS.
Chippendale resident and solicitor, Sue Bowrey, said: “The housing subsidised by the government (NRAS) is housing that facilitates a balanced social mix and incorporates design measures that favour accessibility for people who are ageing or with a disability. It’s supposed to support local business centres by providing affordable rental housing for workers close to where they work. So it’s meant to be something that encourages cities to be able to afford to house people who are needed for the functioning of cities and who can’t afford high rents – often people working in services such as fire-fighters or teachers. The NRAS is supposed to provide subsidised accommodation, not targeted to overseas students …”
Concerns were also raised that amenities have not been planned to meet the proposed student accommodation – amenities such as the area of open space in relation to the number of residents, communal areas inside the block, solar access and ventilation.
A Chippendale resident and mother of two said: “While I am so encouraged to see a new park in Chippendale, I have seen the impact that more and more people have on a tiny suburb with tiny facilities with poor linkages to parks. I live in Pine Street next to the only manageable park and I have watched it being returfed almost every single year by a Council that can’t keep up with the usage – dogs, kids that play in the park. Instead of building a community with more families, they are introducing students which is building pockets of transient populations.”
Sophie Erpicum from UTS Housing confirms that the demand is quite high for student accommodation due to so many universities grouped together. Yet the new accommodation is targeted at overseas students. “If you decided to live with a private student accommodation provider such as Urbanest or Iglu for example, in the Ultimo area, you would start at the $335 mark for a share apartment or start at $470 for a single studio. These are usually more affordable for foreign students who have sufficient funds.”
Another local Chippendale resident, Coral Wynter, said: “I reject the proposal as we need to look for more open space and focus on conserving the heritage of Chippendale.”
The Chippendale Residents Committee also pointed out that the area has a substantial number of student accommodation blocks including two student houses in Regent Street, one in Quay Street, another in Harris Street and approved blocks of student housing to be built on Central Park A, Cleveland Street and Wattle Street.
The development application is currently being reviewed by the Department of Planning and a decision will be made in a matter of weeks.