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“The mould turned out to be toxic.” Horror stories from EUSA’s ‘Let’s Talk: Housing Crisis’

The standard and availability of student housing in Edinburgh is worsening, an issue central to concerns of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association and the student community at wide.

On Thursday 20th January, the Students Association held their first Let’s Talk: Housing Crisis event online, giving students the opportunity to share their “experiences and frustrations with the student rental market”. 

The meeting was led by members of the board of the Students’ Association, Beth Simpson (Vice President Community) and Ellen MacRae (President). 

Much of the discussion was based on the results of the December 2021 Pulse Survey which asked students about their current living arrangements and experiences of acquiring accommodation.

The survey reveals a number of issues regarding student accommodation in Edinburgh, including precarity, poor quality, unaffordability and unavailability. 

The main concern is the lack of rooms available in university accommodation, due to an increase in student numbers since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

2.53% of participants responded “I do not have accommodation” in the Pulse Survey, and many reported that after being unable to attain secure accommodation for the upcoming academic year, they were staying in precarious, temporary housing such as Airbnb’s, hostels and hotels, with 75% paying over £700 per calendar month. 

The price charged for rent in Edinburgh does not align with minimum student loans, and even with the maximum student loan of £7,750, rent consumes the majority of this (88%), based on the average annual student rent of £6,853.

The National Union of Students found in December 2021, that student rent has risen by 34% over the past three years across Scotland, a statistic the NUS believe may “price students out of education”.

In addition to annual inflation on student rent prices implemented by landlords, the energy crisis adds further financial concern. Prior to the Housing Crisis event, a student claimed on the Edinburgh Housing Crisis anonymous Padlet, which was created by the organisers of the event, that due to poor insulation in their flat, “rising energy costs” were a major issue they were experiencing. 

The Padlet highlighted students’ current concerns and suggestions for action. 

Students’ suggestions for action included “writing to MP’s to make them aware of the experiences of students living in Edinburgh”. 

Another student wanted to “organise a rally to demonstrate to the University, Edinburgh City Council and the Government that things need to change”. 

A student on the Padlet believed that Edinburgh City Council should “put a cap on rent prices of student property in the city”. Members of the Students’ Association believed this may be a challenge, yet are willing to push for this. Although there are concerns this may result in landlords being less willing to rent to students. 

Another issue highlighted on the Padlet was that “we often accept poor quality accommodation and agencies don’t respond to tenants’ concerns. Not sure about my rights as a tenant and I feel agencies exploit that”. 

Vice President Community, Beth Simpson recalled reporting mould in the bathroom countless times to her landlord, only to discover after moving out that “the mould turned out to be toxic, resulting in the bathroom being cordoned off for weeks”. 

To take action on these issues a rally has been planned for Friday 25th of March, demanding that the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament for both lower rent and better living conditions. 

The main initial requests will regard the guarantor scheme which excludes international students in particular from securing a private flat, as well as asking for control on annual rent increase. 

Image courtesy of FASTILY via Wikimedia Commons