Activists from the Rent Strike movement stormed The University of London’s Garden Halls yesterday lunchtime shortly after their official reopening by Princess Anne in a protest against rising rent prices in London student accommodation.
HRH Princess Anne had shortly left the building when student activists from UCL, Cut the Rent and Garden Halls’ residents protested inside the highly secure halls of accommodation, holding banners that read ‘Rent is everyone’s problem’.
Rose Buchan, from UCL, Cut the Rent, said ‘extortionately high’ rent at Garden Halls prompted the campaign group’s protest, which took advantage of Princess Anne’s presence to send a strong message in promotion of their campaign.
The Bloomsbury located residence charges up to £254 per week for catered accommodation, which the Rent Strike movement claims is unaffordable for most students.
This protest is the first that UCL-CTR have held since announcing on Monday that the rent strike will continue in 2017 for the third consecutive year.
With the support of the NUS, UCL, Cut the Rent are demanding a 10% rent reduction for university accommodation, with over 150 UCL students going on strike. Last year UCL, Cut the Rent obtained over £1m worth of concessions from UCL management.
The movement at UCL seems to have inspired students from other universities, as a sister campaign is being set up at Garden Halls, with an online petition calling for rent cuts, better provision of services and better communication from management gathering already over 250 signatures.
According to a spokesperson for Cut the Rent Garden Halls, an intercollegiate rent strike movement is also being set up among various University of London halls of residence, including Nutford House.
Garden Halls’ residents moved in in September, before the end of the refurbishment works that were being undertaken in their accommodation. Cut the Rent Garden Halls campaign are calling for a retroactive rent cut in compensation for the disturbance.
The campaign is also calling for a future rent reduction, claiming that University of London’s decision to outsource management of the hall of residence to UPP signals that a rent cut is financially viable for the university. This claim fits into the Rent Strike movement’s wider opposition to the privatisation of university accommodation.