NUS Scotland has released a report detailing the state of the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector, which its president Ellie Gomersall describes as “appalling”.
The report found that the average PBSA rent has increased by 34% since 2018. 26% of students they sampled reported being unable to pay their rent in full on one or more occasion, with this rising to 46% among widening access groups. Students also detailed poor living conditions, including being unable to access fresh water for up to 96 hours, and faulty fire alarms that would go off every night.
Concerns were also raised by the report that international students are disproportionately affected by student homelessness because they often lack UK-based guarantors which are often necessary to secure a rent. The University of Glasgow’s intake of international students grew by 80% between 2014-15 and 2020-21.
The report comes after the Scottish Government’s decision to suspend the rent freeze on student accommodation from March 31. The report argues that this decision should be reversed, although as student accommodation providers set rents at the start of the academic year, there is unlikely to be any immediate effect on students.
The NUS recommends that, as part of a student housing strategy, increased tenants rights are incorporated into a fixed-term PBSA tenancy agreement embedded in legislation. However, NUS President Ellie Gomersall emphasised that such a strategy must be “co-designed with students”.
Summing up the report, Gomersall said: “Whilst 12% of students have experienced homelessness since starting their studies, unchecked rent increases have allowed landlords to make untold profits. In the same period that rents have increased by 34%, student support has only increased by 4.5%.
The Scottish Government cannot afford to continue its path of inaction: it must quickly reinstate the rent freeze and make it so that students have the same rights as other members of society to leave unsuitable tenancies and to be protected from unfair evictions. Institutions also have their part to play. We are calling on institutions to establish a student housing guarantee that ensures that there is adequate housing for every student accepted at an institution.”