Strathclyde Students Still Without Secured Housing

Photo by Eilis Garvey on Unsplash

By Sofia Kouni

We are a month into the academic term, and many students are still left without secured accommodation, whether that is private rented or student accommodation.

Students, eager to enrol in the university and course of their choice, travelled to Glasgow despite the university’s warning not to unless their accommodation was secured. Many are having to compromise by ‘couch-surfing’, changing their place of stay every other week, paying for hotels/hostels, or living in unfurnished flats.

The National Union of Students has stated that UK universities are ​“washing their hands of their duty towards their own students” and are ostensibly released of their responsibility by giving students a warning. The responsibility, of course, is shared between the academic institutions and the government, both current and previous.

While there are new housing developments underway in Glasgow, with some completed or nearing completion, the prices, required deposits, and advance payments in the cases where students have no guarantor are in no way affordable. And that is if students, in fact, even manage to arrange a viewing for a property.

With most agencies requiring students to either have a UK-based guarantor or pay at least six months upfront rent, a condition often impossible to meet for international students and an amount of money very difficult to attain for most students, students are having to borrow large amounts of money and seek help from family and friends.

Reportedly, properties are having their, in many cases obligatory, viewings fully booked within five minutes of being online on websites such as Rightmove. Students are being advised to set up message or email alerts to join the ‘race’ to arrange a viewing for a property by being notified instantly of new properties available. Of course, this ‘race’ has international students starting off with a massive disadvantage as most viewings are now happening in person in a post-pandemic housing market.

Photo by Eilis Garvey on Unsplash

For students lucky enough to have secured accommodation, the set of economic policies widely referred to in the media as a “mini-budget” announced on 23 September 2022 by Prime Minister Liz Truss launches tenants into another ‘pool’ of uncertainty as the resulting mortgage rate hike means affected landlords will likely pass on rent rises to tenants. However, in the Programme for Government (PfG) published on 6 September 2022, the Scottish Government announced a ‘rent freeze’ in Scotland, which has now been passed by the Scottish Parliament. The legislation prevents any further price increases on rented properties until March 2023 and provides for a six-month moratorium on evictions, which also covers student accommodation.

While this measure is helping tenants through the cost-of-living crisis, it comes with some repercussions, as it could lead to even higher costs for rent once the freeze is over. CIH Scotland has echoed the concerns voiced by housing associations about the impact of the rent freeze. CIH Scotland’s national director Callum Chomczuk said, “For private landlords, rising levels of interest rates have led to many private rental properties being sold off and landlords leaving the market, reducing the supply of rented accommodation available.”

“The decision to introduce a rent freeze and eviction protection has the potential to exacerbate these trends and undermine social and private landlords’ efforts to maintain and improve existing homes, provide services for tenants.”

Off to a rough start, the best advice students can get is to persevere, set up alerts for new properties coming on the market to rent, and seek as much support as they can get from the university, student union services, and their family, friends, and peers.

As desperation often attracts scammers, students are advised to also beware of properties to rent that seem ‘too good to be true’ and are advertised on platforms such as Facebook, where prospective tenants are rushed into paying deposits without viewing the property or a tenancy agreement and their ‘landlords’ disappearing into thin air with their money or property nowhere to be found.

The Strathclyde Student Union Housing Support page can be found here.

Pitch given by Haneen AlEid
Edited by Theerada Moonsiri