Students could be pushed out of higher education due to spiralling accommodation prices.
Students are campaigning against rising living costs, while other groups fight for tenants’ rights, and affordable housing.
Students, on and off campus, are fighting for better deals on accommodation costs. They believe that future generations will be forced out of higher education if something is not done.
Unlike typical low-income tenants, students cannot claim welfare payments, such as housing benefit, as they are in full time education. However, student maintenance loans do not come close to full time wages.
On average, the average student home will cost 95% of the maintenance loan available, leaving only 5% for all other expenses.
In Sheffield, students are focusing on the general election to influence policy makers. Welfare Officer at the University of Sheffield’s student union, Tom Harrison, says: “While the Government refuses to invest in social housing and continues to slash housing benefits, we need to improve tenants’ rights and reintroduce rent controls.”
Even accommodation provided by the University is increasing faster than inflation. The cheapest rooms have grown in price by 11% in three years.
Harrison continues: “It is crucial to have student representation when rent setting as it allows us to help end the influence of large private providers.”1
At University College London (UCL), students are requesting a cut in rents.
Prices have risen by an average of 5% per year in accommodation primarily owned by UCL.
Elected halls rep David Dahlborn, says that the University is acting like a business, and does not have the interest of tenants at heart.
Dahlborn explains: “UCL doesn’t seem to take our cost of living into account when they set their rent. It is more concerned about competing within the market.”
UCL do believe that their rents reflect the London rental market. A spokesperson says: “We are aware of the [students’ campaign] and are in dialogue with the student union about this. While there will be some increase in rents, this is not expected to be as high as in recent years and remains competitive for central London living.”1
Tenants in halls have taken the issue to management. Dahlborn says: “When the Head of Accommodation refused to meet with us, we sat on the floor and waited for him. At first it seemed as if he would just ignore us, but in the end he stayed to debate.”1
Most universities do not include student reps in the rent setting process. However, as prices continue to rise, students are getting involved. Lancaster has seen a similar campaign, as students protest a 2.5% rent rise.
Student groups will protest in London under the banner, No Free Education without Affordable Accommodation. The march will come to City Hall at the end of the month, with a Rent Freedom Day following in February.
Students are at the forefront of tenants’ rights; whether it is more affordable halls, better standards in the sector, or a rent control scheme.