Students In London Say Their Accommodation Is Unaffordable and are Refusing To Pay Rent
Over 150 UCL students have started a rent strike, UCL, Cut the Rent, in protest against “soaring” accommodation prices at the university. In spite of running the risk of being evicted, they are campaigning for a 40% rent cut and are vowing to collectively withhold £250,000 until the demand is met.
According to the campaigners, rent prices at UCL have risen by 56% since 2009.
The campaign’s press release highlights the extent to which this sharp increase in the cost of accommodation for students in London “further undermines access to education for low-income students” given the “stagnant” nature of student incomes and the recent scrapping of maintenance grants.
Angus O’Brien, the organiser of the campaign and UCLU Halls Accommodation Representative, says: “The cost of rent has gone up dramatically and it’s preventing people from studying at university. This is a massive problem across London and the country. We are showing that something can be done about rising rent prices; our action could be the start of something much wider.”
One of the strikers, UCL student student Nymia Murry, discusses the importance of the rent strike for future generations: “Many people I know are put off moving to London because they can’t afford to study here. I’m striking so that future students have the opportunity to study at UCL on academic merit not financial background.”
The strikers are arguing that the 40% rent cut “would save the average student in a UCL residence about £2,500 by August.”
— UCL Cut The Rent (@rentcutUCL) January 25, 2016
Other students have taken to social media to show their support for the strike.
Free tuition's good – but not enough to improve access. Rent controls in student accommodation would make a huge difference. @rentcutUCL 💪
— Michael Gray (@GrayInGlasgow) January 25, 2016
— Richard Thomas (@strawfordthomas) January 26, 2016
Rent striking is the whole reason why we have any sort of housing regulation in this country, and will be again @rentcutUCL
— Rebecca Winson (@rebeccawinson) January 25, 2016
— Janet Snakehole (@PugnaxDog) January 26, 2016
I'm with UCL on the rent strikes. My uni's cheapest accommodation is £124 pw which was more than my loan
— Rebecca (@Rebeccajwhitham) January 26, 2016
Meanwhile a spokeswoman for UCL released a statement defending the rent increase.
It read: “We make every effort at UCL to keep rents as low as possible, which is a difficult challenge considering our central London location. Our rents are competitive in comparison with equivalent London institutions, and far less than for comparable accommodation in the private sector.”