Brisbane’s biggest export market gets boost

Brisbane’s biggest export market, international education, is set to create more jobs and boost the city’s economy following Lord Mayor Graham Quirk’s announcement of a subsidy to create purpose-built and centrally located accommodation for students.

The Lord Mayor said he was introducing a temporary three year reduction in Council’s adopted infrastructure charges for student accommodation developments within a 4km radius of the Brisbane GPO.

Cr Quirk said the reduction would be complemented by a new infrastructure charge category by Queensland Urban Utilities for water and sewerage connections for student accommodation developments. The combined Council and QUU infrastructure charges bill for a one bedroom unit has been cut from about $18,000 to $4,560 – a saving of $13,440 per unit.

Cr Quirk said the incentive was designed to boost high quality accommodation options for students attending higher education campuses and teaching hospitals.

“In 2011, I offered incentives to get new hotel construction in this city underway and it worked and I’m now looking to do the same for quality, purpose built, multi-storey accommodation for students,” he said.

“There is continued growth in demand for international students and we want to promote international education which is Brisbane’s biggest export but also expand options for domestic students seeking quality accommodation.

“It is about taking the pressure off student accommodation chewing up housing stock out in the suburbs.

“Domestic and international tertiary students play a pivotal role in the future of our city which is why I am committed to fostering a quality and safe environment that supports them to study, work and live.

“I want our tertiary education providers to be in the position where they can offer not only an enrolment but also quality accommodation for students to enhance Brisbane’s status as a new world city.”

Cr Quirk said the reduction would only be available for development in areas already zoned medium and high density residential or zoned as ‘centres’ that were located in CBD and inner city locations within a 4km radius of the GPO, were very accessible to public transport and had an active onsite management.

“There is no change to existing zonings and our tin and timber low density residential areas are not impacted by the incentive which is only for those areas where this type of development can already occur,” he said.

Currently there are about 75,000 international student enrolments in Brisbane with an estimated revenue generation of $3.77 billion, making international education the city’s biggest export market, creating more than 20,000 jobs in Brisbane.

Queensland Urban Utilities CEO Louise Dudley said the organisation would introduce a new infrastructure charge category specifically for student accommodation.

“We’ve created the new category to reduce the cost of water and sewerage connections for student accommodation developments and support Council’s economic stimulus program,” she said.

“The initiative recognises that student accommodation places less demand on infrastructure because it is seasonal and has lower outdoor water use.”

Cr Quirk said the reduction would improve the financial viability of student accommodation projects and in turn increase the housing opportunities for students choosing to study in Brisbane.

“It is just like 4 and 5 star hotels. This incentive will make the projects viable where previously they wouldn’t stack up financially,” he said.

“There is a lot of interest from the tertiary education sector and I am strongly of the view that this incentive will be an economic generator.

“The student accommodation must be owned and/or operated by an experienced tertiary provider providing a unit to individuals who are enrolled in tertiary education courses and it must have an onsite management with a daily updated register of all persons accommodated at the premises.

“There is also about 300,000 sq m of vacant office space in the CBD and some of this could be converted to student accommodation which will benefit the city economy.”

Cr Quirk said the recent three year moratorium on hotel infrastructure charges for new four and five star hotel development had been very successful.

“This active approach to attracting hotel investment has reaped rewards for Brisbane with more than 900 additional hotel rooms and 10 hotels approved since the subsidy started,” he said.

“Prior to that there had not been a new 4 or 5 star hotel built in the city for a decade.

“During 2014, Brisbane saw more than 600 new hotel rooms come online to support the growing market of business travellers and boost our local economy.”

Cr Quirk said the incentive applies to development applications received and approved between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2017 where the related construction commences within two years of the development approval.