The cost-of-living crisis is only getting worse, with student accommodation reaching a breaking point.
In Brig’s previous print edition, we discussed how the budget outlined for 2023/24 by the Scottish Government was simply not enough to support the growing needs of students studying in Scotland. NUS Scotland (National Union of Students) issued a statement to this effect, outlining that the cost-of-living crisis was, to paraphrase, forcing students into poverty, and in the worst cases, out of education entirely.
Research published back in December illustrated that almost two thirds (64%) of college and university students report having low wellbeing, and more than half (54%) report moderate, moderately severe or severe symptoms of depression.
The cost-of-living crisis affects much of the spectrum that makes up our society, but the poorest and most vulnerable are at serious risk. Students often come into this category, generally being young, away from home for the first time, and subject to finding a job that is flexible with study. Many find this difficult, if not impossible, to balance with their studies.
Shockingly, over a third (37%) of students reported experiencing food insecurity in the previous 12 months.
In Stirling, when our cheapest accommodation on campus is still just under £500 a month, with most students receiving a similar amount from SAAS, how can this ever continue?
Many students on campus are extremely active when it comes to this issue of housing, but with universities tied into deals with the contractor devil, student activism can only take us so far, as we have seen time and time again.
A perfect storm of parasitic landlords monopolising on Stirling as a student city off campus, combined with the cost of accommodation on campus has led to a dreadful elitist institution which excludes working class youth from ever truly reaching their potential when poverty is a barrier, no matter how many grants you dish out, or bursaries you offer.
It is an untenable position. This is not specific to Stirling. Often students seeking accommodation off campus are either preyed upon by aforementioned landlords or are rejected entirely from applying as strict no student or flat share conditions are imposed on some rentals.
“You’re beginning to see student housing moving into shortage across the majority of universities – not just the ones you read about,” said Martin Blakey, the chief executive of the student housing charity Unipol.
“The reason is that purpose-built student accommodation has stopped expanding to the extent it was, and we don’t think that’s going to change. At the same time, we think there’s a significant decrease in shared houses – [landlords] are moving back to renting to professionals or leaving the market.”
If studies like these do not motivate the Scottish Government to enforce further rent control, what will?