A personal perspective on trying to find student accommodation in Glasgow.
It’s 10 past nine, and I'm enjoying my first coffee of the day. I hear my phone buzz – a notification from Rightmove. An email that reads, “Basilia, 2 new properties to rent in Kelvinbridge.” I take the bait and have a look at the properties available. The first is way out of my price range, the second is a little bit overpriced but, at this point, I’m desperate. I dial the number of the estate agent to inquire. Two seconds later, I’m saying “No worries. Have a nice day” with as much enthusiasm as someone whose Cheerios have been used as a urinal.
Despite being added that morning, the flat’s viewing slots are already filled. Reluctantly, I give the agent my name and phone number “in case anyone cancels”. I know fine well that by 12 o’clock the next day the flat will be off the market.
I’ve been through about a month of this now, trying and failing every morning to find a flat. “Look outside of the West End and city centre!” people say. I’ve been rejected for just as many flats in the Southside and East End as I have anywhere else. And with every phone call that ends in the same low, tired “no worries”, I become less optimistic.
"I’ve been rejected for just as many flats in the Southside and East End as I have anywhere else."
One time I phoned up and organised a viewing for the next week, and when I went back to check the listing to show my family later, the website said the let was already agreed. I thought I’d learn from this mistake and bypass the viewing stage next time. But, the next letting agent I called said that viewings are mandatory. She’d send me the online viewing link as soon as it was available, she promised. Three weeks later and I’m still waiting.
Perhaps I’d be less frustrated if most of the properties were actually decent and liveable. But it’s tiny, dingy studios with Murphy beds that fold out into the kitchen and fridges too small to hold more than two days-worth of groceries that are getting snapped up in a heartbeat - for upwards of £600 a month! This just represents how exploitative the rental market is. There is demand for something that people cannot live without, to the point where landlords can charge exorbitant rates for unlivable conditions.
"Perhaps I’d be less frustrated if most of the properties were actually decent and liveable..."
I’m not sure who I blame. I blame neoliberalism. I blame the lack of rent controls that currently exist in Scotland. I blame landlords, especially those exploiting this situation or the upcoming COP26 to make some extra cash. I blame the uni, too – mainly for how it has treated freshers and international students. They’re brushing off this housing crisis and providing its usual minimal amount of support.
Housing is a human right, and this current situation shows just how much that human right can be exploited. I’m lucky enough to live in Ayrshire and commute when I need to, but a lot of students don’t have that privilege. They either get taken advantage of by landlords, or spend another year learning online, in isolation from student life. It all comes with a mental toll, too. For me it’s the constant rejection and wasted time, spending hours every week flat hunting instead of studying. For others, it might be the prospect of continued isolation that weighs them down.
Here’s hoping that in a few months, I’ll be writing articles from a nice wee, terribly overpriced, flat in Glasgow. Can’t say I’m optimistic.
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