By Alex Butterworth.
We’ve all seen the signs for the new luxury student accommodation going up around the centre of the city. The new Summit House accommodation is located on Windsor Place, and advertises itself as “student living. Just better.” The cheapest room available is £8,543 for 51 weeks.
The average rent for students in Cathays is around £275pcm, not including bills. Without a reduced summer rate, that’s £3,300 a year. So Summit House accommodation costs over 250 per cent more than standard room prices.
For new students starting university this year, those receiving the maximum amount of student loan will get £8,200 a year. Clearly, luxury student accommodation is not meant for everyone.
Standard house prices in Cathays will leave new students on maximum loan with around £4,500, which would leave them with a budget of over £85 a week. That’s definitely plenty to live off. So as it is, these students can afford accommodation and living, and could afford to save a considerable amount a year.
But what about students who receive the minimum amount of loan? Students starting university in September could receive a loan as low as £3,821. Although this could cover rent and bills, it won’t leave them much left over. The idea behind the different levels of loan is that families with larger incomes are assumed to assist their children financially, but where they can’t or won’t, it’s a lot of pressure for students to stay on top of their studies while also holding the responsibility to earn all the money they need in order to eat.
Can students cope with increased rent prices? Prices in the Cathays area seem to be on the up, and it’s not just private accommodation. For those in university accommodation blocks, the minimum yearly rate has gone up from £3,207 for the 2013-2014 academic year, to £3,598.88 this year. I know that my particular block of halls has received a bit of a makeover since I lived there. I have to ask not only if the new decor is worth the almost £400 extra that students are being charged, but whether it was needed at all. I lived in University Hall, with spacious rooms and kitchens and the free bus service. If the university is going to spend money improving accommodation, maybe it would be better used tackling the silverfish epidemic in Taly.
For private accommodation, those receiving the maximum loan amount can definitely afford an increase in rent price. Those whose loan barely covers their rent may or may not be able to withstand an increased price, depending on how much their parents are able to help them out. With inflation, all prices rise. If student loans match this, the financial aspect of an increase in price may not be too great an issue.
However, should prices rise? For a four bedroom house, my housemates and I paid a total of £500 in agency fees. Our rent is £275 per person a month. Our water bill is included, but that’s it. We spent the winter without heating because our boiler is inefficient and probably leaking gas (our gas safety certificate is blank) and costs an extortionate amount to use. Despite this, only two rooms in the house have windows which don’t let a draft in. Our contract says that we should have been provided with a television, and ten months later we still don’t have one, despite numerous complaints. Half the appliances are of questionable reliability, and the fuse box definitely needs a service. The house wasn’t cleaned before we moved in, and the letting agents repeatedly attempt to enter the property without 24 hours’ notice. We even signed for a different house, and two weeks before the beginning of our contract were told that the house was not in fact available and we had to find another one. Despite all this, our house is still pretty decent for student accommodation – at least we don’t have mould or rodents.
If this is the quality of service and the standard of living we receive for the £13,150 we’re paying this year (and that’s not including the deposit you know they’re going to try to withhold), I think it’s only fair to say we aren’t getting what we’re paying for. An increase in rent price would be preposterous without a matching increase in quality. In fact, there should be stricter standards whether the price increases or not. It’s a well-known fact that landlords try to take students for a ride, and it’s time we, the university, and local government take a stand.