Call to use rent controls to deal with ‘eye-watering’ student rents

The average annual rent of purpose-built student accommodation rose to £6853 this year.

Call to use rent controls to deal with ‘eye-watering’ student rents iStock

Students are demanding action from the Scottish Government to deal with “eye-watering” rents, as research showed the average amount paid for student accommodation is 34% higher than three years ago.

The average annual rental charge of purpose-built student accommodation rose to £6853 in 2021-22- compared to £5111 in 2018.

Matt Crilly, president of the National Union of Students (NUS) in Scotland, said the rise showed the student housing system was “fundamentally broken” as he called for ministers to bring in rent controls.

It comes as NUS together with the student housing charity Unipol published the results of the Accommodation Costs Survey for 2021-22.

On average, students living in private sector accommodation paid £7322 in housing costs, compared to an average of £5809 for those living in university accommodation.

And with those living in purpose-built student properties paying an average of £6853 in rent, this amounts to 88% of the maximum value of a student loan, which totals £7750 – potentially leaving those studying with just £22.42 a week to live on.

But for those who receive the minimum financial support, average rents amount to 144% of this.

Mr Crilly said the gap between the amount of cash students receive and rental costs could deter some young people from going to university.

He stated: “With a 34% rent hike over the last three years, it is clear that the student housing system in Scotland is fundamentally broken.

“It’s no wonder so many students are living in poverty when rent is far higher than the average student support payment.”

He insisted: “We need to see action now so that no student has to face the prospect of experiencing homelessness, sacrificing food, or dropping out of college or university because of expensive rent.

“The Scottish Government must heed the warnings implicit in these eye-watering figures and urgently create a student housing strategy which includes rent controls.

“The disconnect between student income and rent levels poses an extreme and immediate threat to access and participation in education.”

Unipol chief executive Martin Blakey said: “Student halls are expensive and getting more expensive. The student maintenance system is broken and unless students can access help from parents or part-time work, many would find it difficult to pay these rent levels.

“If access to higher education is to be maintained and enhanced, then poorer students need affordable accommodation to enable them to study at a university of their choice or accommodation providers need to provide help through targeted accommodation bursaries.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are determined to improve accessibility, affordability and standards for rented homes and, as part of that, we are carrying out, with stakeholders, a review of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).

“We are also working to deliver a new deal for tenants giving them more secure, stable, affordable tenancies with improved standards of accommodation, new controls on rent and more flexibility to personalise homes.

“Our commitment to review PBSA is already under way and will be taken forward in parallel with work to ensure rent affordability and improving standards across the private rented sector.

“The review will look at the financial burden accommodation costs put on students including rent levels and increases and will also be informed by the NUS and Unipol surveys.”

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