As a student or a traveller walking about in Sydney, one has definitely seen little notices fluttering all over the city stuck to lampposts, advertising rooms to let.
Websites like Gumtree and Flatmate finders are full of ads for lodgings offered for sub-lease all this is not surprising considering Sydney is a thriving city and with the yearly intake of students going up every year a booming rental market is not such a surprise.
What is surprising is the ads almost always are for rooms to share, not with another person but with another bunch of people.
Bandana, an ex-student from Nepal says "All over the city and across the inner-city suburbs, I've stayed in flats which were no better than slums with people just packed in and living in unsanitary conditions. All these high-rises are full of flats that stuff people in without any regard for safety and laws"
Student housing shortage is so acute in the Sydney CBD that there are students living in the city in extremely overcrowded housing situations that are not only illegal but also raise alarming health and hygiene risks and are a fire hazard.
"I lived in a three bedroom apartment at Regis Tower on Castlereagh Street with fifteen people, two bathrooms and with seven to eight people sharing a single bathroom." Says Thomas a pass-out from the UTS Graduate School of business.
Chris Harris (city of Sydney councillor 2004-2012) in an earlier interview to me had said, "The City of Sydney has a policy that restricts the number of people in an apartment to two people per room. It is clear anecdotallythis policy is being widely ignored."
The startling discovery isn't the fact that there is a deviation from the standard but that overcrowding is the standard.
The City Council did give rangers greater powers to carry out surprise inspections of rental units in a bid to stamp out overcrowding caused by the rental crisis towards the end of 2008 but nothing ever came out of it.
When asked about this Cr Harris had explained,
"Absent some precise data it is my view that the city is not devoting a lot of resources to policing this policy rather it responds to individual complaints. In addition there is a problem of enforcement. City rangers can knock on the door of an apartment but they do not have the power of police so they can't arrest someone or even require a person to divulge his/her name."
"These houses are worse than slums, I went to look at an apartment in the World Tower and there were five students crammed into a tiny one bedroom apartment and I currently spend $180 per week to live in a broom closet" says Michala a traveller from Italy.