Adam Powell-Davies, Socialist Students national organiser
The student housing squeeze shows no signs of slowing. University student rents have jumped by 30% over the past year, according to a recent report by NatWest. More students than ever are seeing their housing costs outstrip their maintenance loans, which have gone up by just 2.8% this year.
In London, the average student rent is a whopping 150% of the maximum maintenance loan, with students now expected to fork out £20,000 per year for privately owned student accommodation!
And it’s not just the cost of housing; students are struggling to find any place to stay! To keep up with demand, 40,000 new places are needed every year but fewer than 9,000 were built last year.
Universities are more than happy to give students a place in return for our fees but are less concerned about whether we can then find an affordable and good-quality place to live. Many universities are notorious for running cramped and decrepit student halls, charging rents barely less expensive than the private sector.
Socialist Students says that higher education must be fully funded by the government, which includes universities having the necessary resources to build and maintain good-quality housing for all who want it.
This also means scrapping fees, cancelling student debt, and replacing maintenance loans with grants. Genuine living grants would mean students could afford their rent and bills, with money left over for food, transport, socialising, etc. A decent standard of living, without having to work on top of our full-time studies.
To meet the needs of students and the local community, Socialist Students calls for universities to be run under the democratic control of staff and students. As a step in this direction, we call for rent controls in all student accommodation, to be decided by democratically elected committees, including trade unions, staff and students.
And it’s not just students who need a decent home. Everyone deserves a warm and comfortable place to live. That’s why Socialist Students calls for a mass building programme of eco-friendly, good-quality and affordable council homes.
All of these demands require a massive fight to be won. It would mean taking the wealth and resources out of the hands of big business, and harnessing them in the interests of the majority. It would require a mass workers’ party, armed with a socialist programme, which fights to take the banks, monopolies, and major industries into democratic public ownership, under workers’ control and management.