Student Union Turns Landlord

Student Union Turns Landlord

OUSA said “fuck it, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”

Otago University Student’s Association (OUSA) is converting the space above University Book Shop, on Great King Street, into six separate apartments. 

A resource consent from the DCC showed that OUSA will build three two-bedroom apartments and three one-bedroom apartments in the space. Pretty much every student critic spoke to was pissed about this.

One student was “annoyed” by the move. “This is the first time I’ve heard of OUSA actually doing something and it’s potentially in conflict with my interests.” Another said “I think they should spend the money we give them on our interests rather than their own.”

“The building is in need of substantial redevelopment, it is important that the redevelopment not only protects the assets for future generations of students, but is also commercially sound,” said OUSA CEO Debbie Downs. “We considered a number of options for commercial use of the building, before deciding on the development of apartments for the first floor.”

Plans by McCoy Wixon Architects show the details of the apartments. They will be accessed via a staircase on the left side of UBS. Each unit is fully self-sufficient with a combined kitchen and lounge area. In both the one and two bedroom apartments a hallway leads past the bedrooms into the kitchen. The lounge area leads onto an outdoor balcony.

“The apartments are not being developed with the student market as the intended end-users, however there is no reason why students couldn’t rent them,” said OUSA CEO Debbie Downs. Critic takes this to mean the apartments are going to be very, very expensive. 

The main concern of students interviewed by Critic was that there may be a conflict between student interests and those of OUSA as a property manager. The majority of students enrolled at Otago rent while studying, and while property is objectively a great financial investment in NZ, many found it hard to reconcile OUSA’s two conflicting roles, in terms of advocating for tenants while being a landlord. 

“We do not believe there would be a conflict,” said OUSA CEO Debbie Downs. “We currently have a tenanted flat above Starters Bar that is managed through a property management company with no issues.”


This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2021.
Posted 5:25pm Tuesday 2nd March 2021 by Sean Gourley.