The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has today released new research that shows the impact of rising rents on students.
They identify the measly amount available to students through the accommodation benefit as contributing to the problem. Despite skyrocketing rents, the amount that students can receive per week to help out with accommodation costs is capped at $40 per week (or $60 for a sole parent with one or more supported child/children), and this cap has been in place since 2003.
The accommodation benefit for students is set at 50% of average rental costs in particular regions, capped $40. For many regions, that cap was reached long ago – for example, in Auckland it was maxed out 10 years ago. In Christchurch, Nelson and New Plymouth it was reached in 2009, and in Wellington and Queenstown it was reached in 2005. That means, in these regions and many more, the amount that a student can borrow hasn’t been able to change since then, despite rents rising in those areas.
This is putting the crunch on students in a big way.
One problem that the NZUSA has highlighted is that the accommodation benefit for students is significantly lower than the accommodation supplement that is available to other low income New Zealanders. So while for students in Auckland it’s capped at $40, in some parts of Auckland you can get up to $145 a week through the accommodation supplement.
The NZUSA are calling on the Government to change the rules and allow students to receive the same rate of support as everyone else through access to the accommodation supplement. At the very least, they’re requesting that the cap on the accommodation benefit for students be adjusted to reflect the reality of increasing rents.
This is a call that we support – we’d like to see all allowances available to students be reviewed and to increase the accommodation benefit to the same level as what’s available to those receiving other sorts of benefits.