We are currently experiencing a student housing crisis. The cost of student accommodation has risen by 18 per cent in just two years, while the financial support available to students has not kept up. We believe that lack of controls in the private rented sector, and the influence of private providers in student halls, is largely to blame. The proportion of private-run halls has grown by 42 per cent since 2014, as many universities sold their existing accommodations or signed contracts with private providers.
Educational establishments “are systematically failing to provide affordable accommodation for their students, and have either invested in expensive new-builds or sold off old property to private developers.”
- Shelly Asquith, NUS Vice President (Welfare)
We believe that students - like everyone else - deserve decent and affordable housing.
Of the students renting from landlords, many express concerns of affordability and quality. The cost is high, yet the quality of housing is often poor, adding another barrier to those who want to participate in education from widening access backgrounds. Other students may be forced to base their choice of education provider on proximity to their family home or the local cost of living, rather than the course they wish to study. Furthermore the cost of living is having a detrimental impact on student mental health: a UK-wide survey of students found 64 per cent of respondents worried about their finances all the time or very often.
What are we doing about it?
We believe that all students deserve access to good quality and affordable accommodation. In order to achieve that we will be working with Acorn and Generation Rent to set up a UK-wide tenants’ union. This will help facilitate student activism for better housing, and we will be providing tools and resources to tackle the crisis. We will also be helping to advise students on their rights whilst living in the private rented sector. Additionally we will be compiling regular reports and studies on the state of student accommodation, lobbing nationally for decisive action on the issue.
What can you do to help?
We are asking activists to lobby their education provider and local authority to demand better quality housing. Consider linking up with other housing campaigns in the local area to hold bad landlords and rip-off agents to account. Start by setting up a rent network to organise for affordable halls on campus. In other areas, rent strikes and other forms of direct action have proven effective ways to win.
The Homes fit for study report (2014) looked at student experiences of housing, including both cost and quality. The Student Accommodation Costs Survey (2015) sheds light on the affordability of housing. NUS’ Ready to Rent platform offers advice on looking for, living in and leaving accommodation, as well as workshop resources to train students on their rights and responsibilities.
The government has brought forward a housing white paper in February and we have produced a briefing and response for students' unions, detailing five priority asks: Fixing Our Broken Housing market