Friday 29-04-2016 - 15:28
Back in August, I wrote an open letter to UCL, demanding that they take action on the disgusting conditions in their halls of residence, calling out their shameful treatment of protestors and calling on management to commit to compensating students.
Following their victory in securing compensation, the UCL campaigners did not give up. Last month I joined them as they took to the streets, stepping up the demands of their rent strike. In the face of threats of suspension, eviction and debt collection, they are leading the way in a call for fairer rent that could pave the way for action across the capital and the country.
The sky-high cost of rents for students in halls is unacceptable. Extortionate rents, coupled with course fees and spiralling living costs prevents working class students from attending university altogether. This cannot go on.
At NUS, we have clear policy on what constitutes a fair and affordable rent: where 25 per cent of all bed-spaces are offered at 50 per cent of the maximum amount of student finance. According to the Accommodation Costs Survey, only 0.8 per cent of the accommodation on offer at UCL could be considered affordable, and this is representative across the University sector.
As well as UCL and SOAS; students at Goldsmiths have also decided to take direct action against the increasing costs of accommodation, co-ordinating a rent strike.
Last week, our National Conference mandated me to provide assistance to students taking part in rent strikes. Today I am writing to respective university managements, re-affirming NUS’s support of the students taking action and calling on them to co-operate, provide affordable halls and ensure fair access for every student. In the coming weeks I will be putting together a plan and resources, from supporting the creation of tenants unions to providing practical and legal support for rent strikers.
In previous decades, many campuses have used rent strikes and won: Birmingham, Sussex and Warwick to name a few. As a movement facing a cost of living crisis, we can learn from their actions and take inspiration from them. Having exhausted other tactics, the students on rent strike today are withholding their payments collectively, and the more student tenants who join them, the stronger the chances of winning.
I urge more tenants at UCL and Goldsmiths to join the campaign, and will continue to offer advice and support to any student who may require it.
Solidarity, and victory to the #RentStrike.