Last year at Goldsmiths, Cut The Rent was formed with two main goals; the first being that all halls should meet the standards set by housing charity Shelter and the second seeking to make halls affordable by capping rent at half the average maintenance loan, the equivalent of £100.20 per week.
We all know rent is expensive in London, but universities should be doing their best to create and offer affordable housing. Rent at Goldsmiths halls has risen significantly this year with some halls increasing by £50 a week with only vague aesthetic improvements to show for it. Last year our halls cost on average 75% of the maintenance loan; it's clear that most students can’t afford these unsustainable prices.
Since starting, the Cut The Rent campaign have put the views of students first. They've put the real story of halls, from exploding toilets to rat infested kitchens, into the public domain so students can see that increasing fees doesnt lead to improved accommodation. Instead of falling on deaf ears, these stories have inspired a movement determined to change the status quo. Since the campaign started, the National Union of Students has vowed to support rent strikes across the country from January - recognising this isnt simply an issue which Goldsmiths is guilty of. Malia Bouattia, president of NUS, has firmly supported the action “by doing all of this, we will put student housing at the heart of our vision for a free, accessible and liberated education.”
For two years whilst a student I lived opposite a Goldsmiths hall. My rent was half the price. The rising cost has a negative impact on students; we all know someone who is struggling with the costs of studying, working two or three jobs, or even working more than 20 hours a week. The future is bleak. Increased rents directly affects the number of who are able to come to live in halls at a university such as Goldsmiths. This form of social cleansing leads to students unable to study in London, creating a Goldsmiths campus of the elite, a campus devoid of working class students, a campus that none of us want to see.
Goldsmiths isnt alone in its approach. We can see it when we walk through Lewisham and Deptford. Our communities are being torn up, local people are being moved out, and only expensive accomodation has been put in its place. One of our Housing Officers Liam wrote in Huck magazine that ‘London is consistently being reshaped for the more affluent city dweller. Scrawled across Deptford walls we see the slogan ‘Yuppies Not Welcome’. People are trying to reclaim the areas that are changing in front of them, only to be met with state violence.”
With increasing halls fees, the College has attempted to increase halls bursaries for students. But with the most expensive rents being upwards of £200, it’s not just students from low income backgrounds who need financial support. Similarly, many of these awards take place after application or when a student has secured a place - meaning some poorer students will never apply here because there is no certainty they can access some of the financial support.
In a sinister twist over the summer, the company that works with Goldsmiths began legal proceedings against a number of students who were on rent strike. Sending threatening letters to students who are justifiably raising concerns about the cost and standard of halls isnt the sort of Goldsmiths we want. I hope you can join me in supporting these students, and demanding a University that provides genuinely affordable accommodation as opposed to the corporate idea of affordability.