Shocking impact of poor student housing revealed

Half of all students struggle to pay rent and two-thirds state that money worries negatively affect their mental health, according to new research.

The survey, from Save the Student, has also revealed that students face terrible conditions in their accommodation across that UK. One in three students go without heating or running water in their property and almost one in five share their home with slugs, rodents, or bed bugs.

Rachel Max moved from California to study computational arts at Goldsmiths, moving into halls recommended by the uni.

Before arriving, she said that “the housing people were excellent”—very responsive to emails, phone calls, and even allowed her to rearrange to get a studio flat at the last minute.

However, upon arrival, Rachel found that the building was shoddily built, and the staff, though well-meaning, were entering her room every couple of weeks and without prior notice.

She said, “It’s a new building, but it has so many issues: the heating, the hot water—all have been broken on and off since I moved in”.

One in ten students waits more than a month for repairs, with some issues never fixed.

Prices for student accommodation continue to rise as poor living conditions stagnate. Student housing charity Unipol conducts a yearly accommodation costs survey. They found that since 2011 the average rent paid by students has increased by a staggering 31.3 per cent.

After spending her first year at KCL living in “crazy expensive” halls, Scarlet Donohoe decided to move into privately rented accommodation for her second. She rented a place on Marcia Road, an area near her university popular with students, but quickly ran into trouble.

“Our landlord was a nightmare and so maintenance just didn’t really exist. We had no lights for like a week in the middle of exams,” she said. She also recognized that despite this in many ways she had been fortunate, “I was lucky enough to have some help from my parents, but without that it’s kinda impossible to live in London as a student as the maintenance loan doesn’t even barely cover half of your rent”.

Save the Student found that one in five student parents gives £5,200 a year to plug the gaps. As Donahoe said, it can be very difficult to live in London as a student without financial aid. Students pay an average of £970 in upfront housing costs but the he average maintenance loan is just £541 per month. This puts extra stress on students with 37 per cent reporting it negatively affecting their studies.

Kelly-Anne Watson, who works for student housing charity Unipol said, “We must work collectively as a sector to improve standards and make sure that there are a range of varied rents for students to choose from, so there are not further barriers into education.” Students have a right to education, but that right is being impeded through unaffordable and unlivable accommodation.

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