You are here

Shared accommodation a necessity and no longer a choice for many in Brisbane

One of many reports about the ongoing and worsening rental crisis in Brisbane, is the article "Wanted: a Room to rent" on page 27 of Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper of 29 April 2008. The article reports trends where both co-tenancy and room-by-room tenancy is increasing. In the latter case, the room is directly rented by each individual tenant from the landlord. This situation is predicted to grow here in the same way that it grew in the UK between 1996 and 2000.

It is hard to fathom whether the intention of the journalist Paddy Hintz is to objectively report this indicator of worsening quality of life for many Queenslanders or to promote acceptance of it. According to the article, "Rental experts are now predicting that &emdash; for good or for bad &emdash; room-by-room renting will continue its stellar rise," as if this trend could possibly be 'good' for anyone other than slumlords, real estate agents and property speculators.

Alex Poulsen, manager of the University of Queensland accommodation services, was quoted:

“I think what is really interesting is the number of professional people in their 20s and 30s who are now sharing.

“It’s that weird 10-year period where you can’t really afford to live in your own home but you don’t want to live at home either.

“People who live in share houses are getting older, people are getting married later and women are waiting longer to have babies.“

Alex Poulsen tried to portray shared accommodation in a somewhat positive light, when he pointed out that this kind of renting can be a great way to meet people, particularly if want to build a portfolio of contacts.

Of course, this is one of many reasons why people have chosen to live in shared accommodation in the past, but it was more a choice than a necessity, and those who did so could expect to save considerably on rental costs in return for having their personal space encroached upon by strangers with whom they may not necessarily have been compatible. These days it is no longer a choice for many, because of skyrocketing rents.

For those who do grasp the nettle of living with strangers under the same roof, the choices may still be limited. Between AU$155-AU$160 per week seems to be the average for shared accommodation which is proving to be a hurdle for many young people seeking shared accommodation in Brisbane according to Don Foster, accommodation manager of the Queensland University of Technology.

The high rents which are forcing many more than previously would have had to have lived together are the direct result of increased demand for rental properties, caused by population growth that has been directly lobbied for by land speculators. Indeed, in May 2004 whilst listening to an "Australia Talks Back" (now called "Australia Talks") talkback program on ABC's Radio National, I was astonished to hear an economist working for the Real Estate Institute of Australia (or possibly the Property Council of Australia) actually state that they were looking towards an increase in immigration to revive the slump in the property market. They have since got their wish of course, with the help of the Courier Mail newspaper, itself a relentless promoter of population growth1 and the rest of us are paying the price.

See also: "Rent gouging threatens Brisbane inner city retail community"


1. See The Courier Mail beats the drum for more Queensland population growth. [back]


Articles like this seemingly serve to normalise a trend in an attempt to reassure, to get readers to readjust to what is now considered to be OK and to prepare themselves for future frustrations and difficulties their own children will have and that they did not- at least not to the same extent.

It's the same as all those articles about (need for) urban consolidation - smaller houses pocket handkerchief gardens or no gardens -that have been run in the Victorian press for decades- now we've got it. We can't afford the land we used to occupy. We are not moving closer together to be nice and considerate or community minded-we have to.

The fact that people are economically forced to wait longer than they would wish before marrying and having children seems to me to be a strong negative in a country giving out a baby bonus to encourage baby production. This anomaly in itself shows how stuffed the end result of our economy is.

If this trend continues, people will be middle aged before they can buy a house and think about having a family.
As for making friends and networks by sharing bathrooms and living rooms with strangers when you are 32 years old- not sure fire at all. There are much better ways to make friends than to be forced into clearing away somebody's beard hair from the bathroom basin first thing in the morning.

There are no positives about this. It's hideous.

I meant to write about this in the article. I read, possibly within the last four months, that in Sydney shared room accommodation is becoming more commonplace, so high have rental costs become. If anyone can provide more information on this it would be greatly appreciated.

The Sunday Mail, in a story “Loveless couples too broke to split” with the by-line Sharing bills but trapped in ‘non-divorce’ by Hannah Davies reports:

A growing number of couples are choosing to stay in loveless relationships because they can’t afford to go it alone in the worsening economic climate.

The trend, dubbed the “non-divorce”, has resulted in married and de facto couples living together like passionless room-mates rather than spouses, ….

As mortgage and loan interest rates continue to rise, purse strings are tightening across the state. The average mortgage is now $300,000, carrying monthly repayments of $2168, and average rent is $260 a week for a modest unit on the Gold Coast, or $350-$400 for a house in Brisbane or on the Sunshine Coast. Add to this petrol surging past $1.50 a litre, and the weekly grocery bill going through the roof.

Relationships Australia counsellor Fiona Hawkins said … “I know a woman in her 50s who has a low-paying job, who feels she is going through the motions of a relationship, but will stay with her husband because the alternative is renting on her own.

“She feels sharing the house makes good financial sense because then the overheads burden is shared. Repairs, rates, and rents are usually the same no matter how many people live there.

… Dr Brian Sullivan, from the University of Queensland, said financial concerns could cause a couple to stay together even when the relationship was hostile.

“If a woman has children and she leaves her husband, she suddenly becomes the breadwinner,” he said. “When faced with this, a woman will often decide to stay in the relationship because if she was to leave she would be on the streets, with no viable means of support.”

Relationships Australia offers counselling to couples (in marriages of financial convenience). Phone 1300 364 277 for an appointment.

Does anyone really need proof that rent gouging exists? Well I have two examples...I used to live in Eagleby on Brisbanes southside, the 2 bedroom flat I rented in 2002 was $95 a week, it now rents for $230 a week.
I had a friend that lived in units in Eagleby that used to be leased by a church group and rented out to low income earners for $120 a week. In April 2007 the owner put them on the market and the real estate evicted all the tenants. Now they rent for $240 a week.... a $120 increase in 12 months? If thats not gouging I dont know what is.

Thanks for this useful, if disturbing, news. It is not only people seeking accommodation who are threatened. In Paddington an inner West suburb of Brisbane, a community of retail businesses were hit by sudden rent hikes in February. Alt least had to close as a result. For Further information, read Rent gouging threatens Brisbane inner city retail community.