A recent Freedom of Information request from the Green Party reveals that 96% of students consider their accommodation unaffordable. With student rents averaging at £235 per week, a member of the Young Green party and mayoral candidate Sian Berry suggests that “the Student Living Rent for the capital should be £110 a week”.
Rents are forcing students to live far from their universities and not in areas they would like to live. One of the most popular student accommodation organisations, Unite, divides their prices according to locations leaving no choice but to accept the cheapest one. Rent in areas like Shoreditch, Hoxton and Old Street start at £350 per week. The Telegraph recently published a map showing the difference between rent prices in different areas in London which varied from £175pw to £450pw. Rent closer to the city centre is unaffordable for working people and even more for students living on their grants or minimum part- time wages.
The National Union of Students released a report in 2014, ‘Homes Fit for Study’. With nearly 3,000 students surveyed, the report found that one in five students live in vermin-infested homes and more than half have mould and condensation in the homes they currently live in. “Although there’s a commonly held perception that poor quality student housing is a rite of passage, it is both disgusting and unacceptable that students should live in vermin-infested housing in this day and age,” said Colum McGuire, NUS Vice President of Welfare.
Over 150 UCL students started a rent strike at the beginning of this year, against the increasing rents. The students are campaigning for a 40% cut after figures showed the rent had increased by 56% since 2009. The cut would save the average UCL student £2,500 by August of this year. In spite of running the risk of being evicted, they are collectively withholding £250,000 worth in rent until the demand is met. A spokeswoman for UCL defended the rent increase saying: “We make every effort at UCL to keep rents as low as possible, which is a difficult challenge considering our central London location. Our rents are competitive in comparison with equivalent London institutions, and far less than for comparable accommodation in the private sector.”
When only the wealthy can afford to live in the capital how does that affect London’s diverse and multicultural population? The threat is not just cultural but economic too with fears that London will lose out in the race to become Europe’s major digital hub. London is becoming unaffordable for many young enterprising employees choosing cheaper cities to work and live. When asked if studying in London is a privilege or a right, Conservative member of the Greater London Assembly, Andrew Boff said: “It’s neither a privilege nor a right. It’s a choice. It’s a choice you make when you decide to study in London and weigh up all the pros and cons of studying in London.”
By Sophie Deijkers, Victoria Pennant and Ieva Rakojedaitė
Image Credit: Creative Commons