How to apply for free student accommodation if you're stranded in Australia

State governments in Australia are offering help to international students in need of student accommodation. According to a survey by The Conversation, four out of five international students are currently still living in Australia, despite the shift to online learning.

If you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic, or unable to return home due to travel restrictions, you can apply for free accommodation, discounted homestay placements, or rent relief payments. Here’s how to apply depending on which state you’re in:

New South Wales

The NSW government is currently funding 20 weeks of free accommodation for international students during the pandemic, delivered through approved student accommodation and homestay providers.

Leonardo Kila, a Brazilian student in Sydney, lost his job when the pandemic struck. He was able to get free student accommodation through a homestay scheme as part of the NSW government assistance programme for international students.

He told SBS, “I saw the New South Wales international student assistance programme online, which offers zero-cost homestay accommodation. I signed up and they called me, they asked me about my profile, they saw where I lived, if I wanted to be part of a family or live with the family but in a more independent way … It has been very good for me, staying here while I re-establish my jobs and my income. ”

In order to receive free student accommodation in NSW, Australia, you must:

  • hold an international student visa
  • have lost, or be at risk of losing, access to secure accommodation
  • have no other avenues of support
  • have a MyServiceNSW Account
  • submit a letter of support from your education provider
  • apply online or call the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline on 13 77 88.

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For international students in Victoria, the situation is currently dire. The state is currently on a prolonged lockdown due to increased COVID-19 cases. If you’re experiencing hardship due to this, you may be eligible for assistance under rent relief grants.

International students can receive up to 3,000 Australia dollars from an AU$80 million rental assistance fund by the Victorian government, but only if you have not reached a voluntary agreement with your landlord to reduce your rent due to hardship.

According to the website, “You can apply for a grant until 31 Dec. 2020, however your application can only be processed if you have reached a voluntary agreement for a rent reduction with your landlord and lodged this agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, or completed a mediation process through Consumer Affairs Victoria.”

If you have already lodged your new rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, you can apply for a Rent Relief Grant online. Call 1800 950 444 between 9am and 12pm Monday to Friday to receive a paper-based application.

South Australia

The South Australian Government announced an AU$13.8 million International Student Support Package which includes rent relief.

According to the website, an AU$500 emergency cash grant will be available to other international students in the ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students), VET (Vocational Education and Training) and Higher Education sectors not studying or packaged with one of the public universities. They have to be currently enrolled in a course, live in Adelaide, and meet the criteria. “For school students living with South Australian families, a one-off AU$200 COVID-19 assistance payment per student will be provided to homestay families, to help support accommodation for school students.”

student accommodation australia

A woman looks out over the Melbourne skyline as she takes a break from exercising on Aug. 11, 2020. Victoria state reported 19 deaths from coronavirus on August 11, making it the country’s equal deadliest day of the pandemic despite a fall in new case numbers. Source: Photo by William West/AFP

Western Australia

StudyPerth has established StudyPerth Crisis Relief (SPCR), a programme to address the needs of international students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions. The website states that applicants are eligible to receive aid under this programme if “all other avenues of support have been considered.”

This means applicants will be referred to their educational institution, and/or the relevant consulate, business council or association to discuss additional support for them before their application is considered. Once an applicant has completed all stages of the protocol, they are eligible to apply for SPCR.

For eligible students whose applications are approved for SPCR, they will be provided with Coles or Woolworths vouchers and/or directly pay two weeks’ rent. If students still require additional support after they have received assistance from StudyPerth, they can apply for SPCR again.

Applications for SPCR are considered on an individual basis, and are only for residents of Western Australia, meaning international students must be renting in the state.

International Support Student Network (ISSN)

The ISSN is a partnership with the Australian Homestay Network to provide housing support for those affected by the pandemic. Although student accommodation under this scheme is not 100% free, international students in Australia can apply for a heavily discounted homestay placement.

ISSN homestays include a private room, meals, utilities and support from one of AHN’s host families. You can apply here.

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