Research by an Australian think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), claims that Australia will face a supply shortfall of 252,800 housing units in the six years to 2028. According to IPA, the Australian government’s inability to “rein in the influx of migrants”, particularly international students, is exacerbating Australia’s housing crisis. IPA claims that the net intake of international students was 250,000 in the 2022/23 financial year, “equivalent to 70 per cent of new housing supply”.

On launching the report, IPA’s deputy executive director Daniel Wild said: “We need to have an honest conversation about the appropriate number of international students we can accommodate while not leaving Australians out in the cold.”

While Australia is indeed facing a shortage of accommodation for international students, a range of industry organisations have hit back at the report, saying that international students are being unfairly blamed for Australia’s housing crisis and that limiting Australia’s international student intake is not the solution.

Anne Flaherty, an economist at property data company Prop Track told SBS News that “It’s really scapegoating to blame international students and migrants.”

Managing director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Michael Fotheringham told SBS News the report does not mention key factors that have led to chronic rental unaffordability.

The Student Accommodation Council has also expressed concern that the report unfairly blames Australia’s intake of international students for Australia’s housing crisis “when planning, taxation, building costs, archaic approaches to rental reform and a lack of land supply are all impacting on the supply of housing across the nation.”

According to Adina Cirson, the acting executive director of the Student Accommodation Council, the IPA report fails to consider that there are 75,500 students residing in 200 student accommodation buildings specifically designed for this purpose.

A December 2022 Savills report noted that an additional 4,973 beds became operational in 2022, and that an additional 4,979 beds would become operational in 2023. In 2024, new supply will decline, with only 1,892 beds to be delivered – a residual impact of “schemes not moving forward during the pandemic”.

Ms Cirson also said “the delivery of student accommodation needs to be a priority at every level of government – rather than trying to simply cut back on the number of students – which are vital to our service export industry and broader economy.”