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    Micro Sydney Uni dorms a new model for affordable student accommodation

    Nathan Johnson

    Nettleton Tribe is the latest architecture firm to bear the fruits of Sydney Uni’s billion-dollar redevelopment of its city campuses, and it’s a project that could end up having a significant impact on student accommodation design in Sydney.

    The Sydney-based practice has submitted a development application for a new mixed-use project at the City Road entrance to the university’s Camperdown Campus.  

    The Regiment Mixed-Use Redevelopment Project includes the addition of a new eight-storey student accommodation and educational facility, to be integrated with a number of heritage items currently occupying and bordering the site.  

    Nettleton Tribe’s proposal is based around a commitment from the university to provide affordable accommodation options for its students on campus, and to enhance the quality of campus facilities by integrating student housing with the various education facilities.

    SMALLER DORMS + LARGER COMMUNAL AREAS = AFFORDABLE QUALITY LIVING

    Prior to submitting the DA, Sydney University engaged CRED Consulting to produce an independent study and report examining the effect smaller bedroom sizes would have on student housing affordability in the context of the Sydney residential market.

    Social and economic benefits of the University of Sydney's proposed student housing model demonstrates that a circa-two-metre reduction in standard bedroom size from the minimum proposed in the governing SEPP for dorm style accommodation, could reduce rent by up to 25 per cent for occupants.

    As such, 95 per cent of the 660 bedrooms proposed for the Regiment Mixed-Use Redevelopment Project will be around the 10sqm mark, two metres below the 12sqm bedroom guideline in the SEPP. Offsetting this reduction will be the expansion of communal facilities within and around the new building.

    Quality design is also a focus, and Nettleton Tribe’s dorm rooms are of ergonomic quality with comfortable appropriate seating, a quality mattress and adequate storage. All rooms will feature 2.1m-high glazed windows to provide ample light and ventilation, and will have a king-single bed, ceiling fan, study table, bar fridge, storage, and book shelving.

    Rooms.jpg

    The CRED Consulting report is supported by The City of Sydney’s Housing Issues paper which found there is a significant undersupply of affordable housing in the City of Sydney. This shortage is compounded by an undersupply of nearly 75,000 student accommodation beds across Sydney including a shortfall of 7,000 beds (by 2021) immediately adjacent to the University.

    The university says that its approach to affordable housing is backed by other research indicating that students within on campus accommodation do not spend a significant amount of their free time in their rooms but prefer to study and play in communal settings.

    A PRECEDENT AND A CAN OF WORMS

    While the Nettleton Tribe proposal doesn’t comply with the SEPP, it is not without precedent. The recent approval and subsequent success of the University’s Queen Mary Building, also by Nettleton Tribe highlights that smaller rooms combined with extensive amenity and support facilities can deliver a quality product at a price point below the private market.

    The building has 800 dormitory style beds with room sizes of less than 10sqm (this was permitted as the rooms were existing) and recently won the 2016 Student Housing Operation of the year at the Asia Pacific Association for Student Housing awards.

    The Regiment Mixed-Use Redevelopment could see the return of a hotly-debated issue regarding the benefit and detriment minimum apartment standards have provided and will continue to provide for Sydney.

    On one hand, we have arguments and studies showing that mandatory controls increase the cost of housing, while on the other we have arguments and evidence suggesting controls like the SEPP for apartment buildings (SEPP65) have significantly increased the quality of apartments since their introduction.

    The outcome of the Regiment Mixed-Use Redevelopment could provide evidence to either side. 

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