London Student

How a housing cooperative is taking on the student rental market

With frustrated students not being able to keep up with the increasing rent and worsening conditions in the housing market, the newly formed housing group, Student Co-op Homes, is taking matters into their own hands.

We all know the money difficulties of student life, working two jobs just to be able to eat and having to really scavenge to be able to keep up with the high rent. Students are being pushed to breaking point. Rent levels continue to rise and financial support for students is not changing with it.

Student Co-op Homes has been launched to address “rip-off” student housing across the UK, already working in Edinburgh, Sheffield and Birmingham, with many more cities to follow.

We are the landlords. We are in charge.

The student housing co-operatives are houses or halls of residence which are managed and owned by students. Students can be paying 30% less rent than the standard housing options available on the market. This scheme is designed to help with some of the financial stress students are burdened with. It was found that 44% of students struggle to keep up with rent, and 45% of respondents said their mental health suffered as a result, leaving their studies to be affected, according to a survey carried out by Save The Student.

According to the research by the National Union of Students (NUS) 62% of students rely on loans to help pay rent, and only half of these students believe their accommodation to be value for money.

Another survey by student finance website Save the Student, stated that the average loan leaves a typical UK student with £8 after covering rent, with living costs such as food, travel and toiletries still outstanding. Jake Butler, operations director at the website claims, “students are forced to get a job at the expense of their studies and rely on their parents who may struggle to support them”.

Student Co-op are taking on the current housing situation for students and have announced plans to increase national capacity of student housing co-ops from 150 to 10,000 beds within the next five years.

Birmingham was the first place for the student housing co-op to be set up in the year 2014. Students, who have been living there, claim the rent is very convenient and what also is attractive is the “do-it yourself approach”.

Nail Turton, chief operating officer and champion of student co-op housing at Co-operatives UK, believes this strategy can be beneficial both the students and the co-op sector. Turton claims “By incubating Student Co-op Homes we will drive the growth of student co-op housing for the benefit of current university students, and for those in decades to come.”

The immediate appeal for students is clear. As Mike Shaw, a founding member of Edinburgh Student Housing Co‑operative, said: “There is no landlord- we are the landlords. We are in charge. We are democratically run by our members. We provide better quality housing and we are able to bring costs right down to offer cheaper housing.”

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Safa Daud