Finley Allot explores the rise in students choosing to stay in private halls rather than gamble with student landlords
It has often been seen as a university tradition to move into a shared flat in your second year. From TV programmes such as Fresh Meat to your parents talking of their crazy, and sometimes embarrassing, stories of their time there.
Yet in recent years there seems to be a gradual shift in students away from these shared flats, and for good reason. Students have become sick and tired of hearing horror stories from previous years; flats being in vile, unlivable conditions upon arrival and landlords that couldn’t care less about the maintenance of the flat and the wellbeing of their tenants.
These experiences are ones which I can sympathise with. I too live in a flat which has relatively high rent compared to the rest of Glasgow. At £480 a month, this is a terrible value when looking at the extremely poor quality of the flat and the lack of response from the landlord. A tiny fridge, mouse infestation, unclean windows and broken bathroom lights all shine a light into the level of care that some landlords give to their tenants.
There is a reasonable move in popularity towards the private halls that are owned by companies separate to the university. Being motivated by market demand they are inclined to cater to their tenant's needs. This means the company makes sure that the flats are well furnished, maintained and cleaned. They also have much better security than shared flats, with a security guard watching over the flat 24/7, along with having all bills included.
Therefore, many students are finding that they are having a much greater standard of living in these private halls, not worrying about keeping their bills low and keeping their belongings safe. I can personally vouch for this myself; living at a private hall in first year I found that the quality of my flat was much better than the shared flat I live in now- having an ensuite, a television and a well-furnished kitchen while always feeling safe from burglars.
The move towards private halls is not just a theory, but can be backed through statistical data. The Guardian reported on a NUS-Unipol survey which showed that the private sector has gone up from providing 18% of bed space to 41% between 2012/13 and 2018.
However, this does not end the debate on whether private halls are now the best option for students.
You cannot ignore the positive sides of shared student flats. Its social life is something that, in my personal experience, is above and beyond the level of that in private halls. Being able to live independently in a large flat with all your close mates is an experience that is hard to come by at any other time in your life. Even if, as in most cases, the quality of the flat is poor, you are still able to decorate and personalise the flat however you please: with lights, posters and sofas to name a few- a liberty not afforded to those in private halls.
So even if the living conditions of the flat are less than acceptable when you first arrive, as you are relatively free to experiment and be creative you are able to create a relaxing and homely environment that can actually be a lot more enjoyable and cosy than a private hall.
Private halls can also come with costly social problems that can be detrimental to the local area.
The Guardian recently reported on how the increase in popularity for these types of accommodation is accelerating gentrification in the areas that it is expanding into. It uses the examples in Glasgow of how expensive private student halls that include things like cinemas with price tags upwards of £200 a week, are rapidly changing the areas in Finnieston and Charing Cross. They bring with them fancy café’s and bars that push out local pubs, inevitably leading to tension between the locals and the students as the area around them becomes unaffordable and unrecognisable to the place they once lived in.
After being lucky enough to experience both private halls and shared student flats in my two years of Glasgow, it can be argued that I am in the perfect position to compare the two. I find it completely understandable why there has been such a shift towards private halls, as students have grown sick of mistreatment from landlords. It is inevitable that they have given up on the traditional route towards shared flats in favour of well maintained and stress-free private halls.
Yet it is a choice that is completely subjective. Though the experience of independence and a hectic social life may attract some people, the chance to live in well maintained, secure and stress-free flats may entice others.