Housing Officer candidate Dante Lopez is committed to representing students living on campus and in private housing – ensuring that their university experience is not “tarnished” by poor accommodation standards.
Driven by his own negative experience of accommodation on campus, the first-year Business and Politics student pledges to never shy away from supporting fellow students with their housing issues.
His campaign focuses on holding the university to account on accommodation matters, liaising with relevant authorities to ensure that students have somewhere to live during their studies and educating students on their rights as a tenant.
Dante also aims to call on the university to implement a three-year rent-freeze on all accommodation to help mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living.
In an interview this week, Brig asked Dante how he will kickstart his work as Housing Officer.
He said: “If elected, I will aim to meet with key student housing stakeholders, including accommodation operators and students. I will also provide information to prospective students via the Student Union website on what to expect and what to bring when moving into accommodation, to ensure a smooth and manageable process for new students.
Dante told Brig that upon moving into student accommodation in December, he was “thoroughly let down by the standard, maintenance and service.”
“When I moved into my flat, there were several maintenance defects within the bedroom and wider property including an unusable room sink, malfunctioning lighting in both shower rooms, defective bathroom door locks, and almost every kitchen cupboard door was hanging off its hinges.
“The current standard of University accommodation falls far below student expectations and the current rental charge, in my opinion, significantly over-values several of the properties operated by the University.”
If elected as Housing Officer, Dante aims to hold the university to account for this “poor standard of accommodation.” He is calling for an independent survey of all university accommodation to ensure that each flat is kept to a suitable standard and that students are not exposed to health risks through mould, damage or otherwise.
Dante also prioritises reducing the prospect of homelessness for as many students as possible, saying “students are facing a housing crisis, with many having no secure accommodation.
“As Housing Officer, I would liaise with the university, local authorities and relevant stakeholders to ensure that there is an appropriate action plan in place should a student face the prospect of homelessness at any point during their studies.”
Dante is committed to calling on the university to implement a three-year rent-freeze on all accommodation, to make sure that students can afford housing amid the rising cost of living.
He told Brig: “It is a genuine concern that students may have to make difficult decisions such as whether to pay their rent or eat.
“Student loans are not expected to rise for the 2022/23 academic year which means that the money in students’ pockets will already be tight. As living costs skyrocket, my rent-freeze policy will ensure that students’ pockets will not feel the squeeze as hard – should rent rise with inflation.”
Educating students on their tenancy rights is another priority at the forefront of Dante’s campaign. To achieve this, he will work to introduce a new page on the Students Union website detailing the rights of tenants, what support they have available and what the Union can do to represent them with any accommodation issues.
Dante also aims to build a housing forum, where student accommodation operators can listen to students and discuss any accommodation issues that they face.
He said: “Students, especially those in the first year of their studies, often have no experience of living independently. It seems as though accommodation operators use this to their advantage by taking their time [to fix] or ignoring key maintenance faults, or other issues that their tenants face.
“I want to be able to provide all students with the tools and knowledge to counter this and ensure that their legal rights as tenants are upheld and respected.”
Dante is currently Vice-President of the Stirling University Scottish Nationalist Association, and also has several years of experience under his belt in political campaigning and working to help build local policy.
He told Brig: “I believe that I am committed, driven and innovative – this has been shown in my prior leadership and campaigning roles.
“My leadership experience has helped me to build confidence in myself and given me the voice that is needed to tackle the issues at hand and to fulfil promises made. I have also learned diplomacy and communication skills which I believe will be key when liaising with housing and accommodation stakeholders.
“It is important to listen to all sides and work constructively together to build a better future that works for all those involved whilst ensuring that those most vulnerable – in this case, students – are protected.”
Brig asked first-year Dante what differences will he bring to the table and how will he build on the work of previous Housing Officers. Dante praised the work done by previous Housing Officers, saying they have “performed extremely well in supporting students” despite facing challenges and disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “I will bring a fresh view as we move out of the COVID-19 pandemic and look to re-build the student housing environment here in Stirling, making sure it is a positive experience for all those involved.
“I will continue to work with principal to fulfil the promises that I have made in my manifesto this year.
“I believe that my policies will make a real difference to students. They will ensure that your health is protected, your financial situation is potentially a little less bleak, the prospect of homelessness is reduced as much as possible, and you have the means to be educated on your rights as a tenant.”
Dante Lopez’s manifesto can be found in full here.
Voting opens at 9:00a.m on Monday, March 14 and closes Tuesday, March 15 at 6:10p.m.
Featured Image Credit: Dante Lopez