Frustrated students, who have grown tired of poor levels of accommodation and rising rents, are joining forces to create a National Body of Student Housing Co-Operatives in attempt to solve the problems in the student housing sector.
Student housing co-operatives already exist across the country, but now, both Students for Cooperation and Co-operatives UK are supporting a movement to bring individual student housing co-ops together under the name Student Co-Op Homes.
This follows on from successes in places like Edinburgh where members pay as little as £75 a week for accommodation provided by the Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op. That’s compared to the average £112 a week paid by non-members in the area.
Similar successes have been seen in Birmingham where students using the local housing co-op can save around 10% on their weekly rent.
Mike Shaw, a founding member of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, explained how the co-ops worked: “There is no landlord – we are the landlords. We are in charge. We are democratically run by our members. We provide better quality housing and we are able to bring costs right down to offer cheaper housing.”
But, It’s About More Than Just Money
One of the biggest appeals is that the money paid in rent is invested back into improving the property. There are also much more flexible rules when it comes to allowing students to improve the accommodation they are in. This helps them to feel some form of ownership towards where they live.
And that’s an approach that is being welcomed by across the UK, giving them more control over their accommodation, and crucially, saving them money.
Scott Jennings, board member of Students for Co-operation, said: “The current student housing market is broken. For too long the private rental sector has got away with steadily increasing rents for poorer quality housing.
“Everyone we speak to is so inspired by the idea of housing co-ops but access is so limited. Until now we’ve not had enough investment in this area so that people can access this sort of living whilst at university.
“The establishment of Student Co-op Homes is essential to the growth of this sector. We have one point of investment, we have a plan. We can buy in batches around the country and we can grow. We can actually take on the landlords and the problem system that we are living under.”
It remains to be seen just how far the new Student Co-Op Homes body can go and how concerned private landlords in the student sector should be.
However, they are certainly sending out a clear message that people will no longer accept unfair rental increases and decreasing quality of accommodation. If landlords want to continue to attract the student market, they will need to significantly up their game.