A sign outside a row of flats reads "TO LET but not to students"
Credit: Ciara McAlinden

Dude, where’s my flat?

By Georgie Whiteley

Georgie Whiteley discusses the current difficulties that students face finding a flat close to university and friends

With a new term comes new challenges or, as many have found, challenges which have resurfaced. The student rental market within Glasgow has never been one to favour tenants. Horror stories permeate discussions: seeing your own breath as you exhale in a friend’s living room in winter, collecting keys to a flat that hasn’t been cleaned, landlords refusing to answer a resident’s concern because they are female. While it’s highly important that everyone feels safe, warm, and well-looked after in their homes, perhaps the most frustrating problem within Glasgow’s rental market right now is actually securing a property in the first place.

“The most frustrating problem within Glasgow’s rental market right now is actually securing a property in the first place”

While many face problems further down the line, others are falling at the first hurdle: finding somewhere to live. Within Glasgow, the West End is the de facto area most Glasgow University students want to live; it is (relatively speaking) safe, close to teaching facilities, features all local amenities needed, and, perhaps most importantly, where everyone else is. Not only does the West End afford you the ability to get out of bed and make it to a lecture within 20 minutes, but it also grants access to a bustling social scene, filled with your friends, their friends, and parties you are invited to solely off meeting a stranger while drunk. To many, a positive university experience hinges on this; after all, what is university without the hazy nights you can’t remember. Thus, many remain committed to the West End within their property search, even when faced with borderline illegal tenancies and staggering rent charges (just be thankful you’re not renting in Edinburgh).

Quite obviously, this comes with a price; everyone is searching for the same properties in the same area. Flats are uploaded and taken down within hours, sometimes even less, and flat hunting moves from being a one-month endeavour, to a three-month slog. Listings featuring multicoloured walls and carpets are snapped up and, even more bafflingly, those with no pictures have been reserved unconditionally due to their location. Prospective tenants face rejection everywhere: viewing lists which are full after an evening, phone lines which will keep you on hold for 40 minutes, applications which are often entirely ignored. As the university’s starting date looms closer and closer, students are still left without a nearby home.

“Flats are uploaded and taken down within hours, sometimes even less…”

Recently, the University released a statement acknowledging this lack of available accommodation. Some may question why this is the case, however the most obvious factor – and the most unique – is the prevalence of Covid-19. Many have been priced out of higher rents, either from rising rent prices in Glasgow, or from losing their job during the pandemic. Further, some rental properties have not returned to the market: smaller landlords have had to sell their properties, while other flats are being used as holding space for students who can’t return. This combination of factors has made renting a flat as a student unpredictably tough in an area which was already in high demand in previous years. Despite the guarantee from the University of accommodation for international and first year students, this response doesn’t offer comfort to those in later years, and so, many have turned elsewhere.  

Briefly searching Rightmove or Zoopla returns many vacant properties waiting to be snatched up, the only problem being that many are, at best, 40 minutes away, or at worst, over an hour and a half. And here, students face a conundrum: do you wait until you can secure a flat within the West End, or look elsewhere. To many it doesn’t seem worth it; the commute is too far, too expensive, and the area might not be quite so attractive. To others though, it presents an opportunity. Flats in the East End or Southside are often cheaper than their counterparts in the West End. Similarly, both areas have their own culture; local pubs and independent shops flourishing in places where rent hasn’t reached untenable levels. A commute – easily walkable or cycled – can be a satisfying trade for those who find value in the local shops available and those who desire cheaper rent. 

Despite these benefits, it might not be desirable. For many, convenience rules above all: the time it takes to get to university, the ability to see friends easily, and the capacity to feel safe in a student area. The flat hunt may be hard, but the West End and everything it brings (including the nickname “West End wanker”) means the stress, the refusals, the unanswered applications, the long phone calls, and the letting agencies, may be worth it. 


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