“It is a case of supply and demand”: students share house-hunting experiences
This year housing has again become an area of concern for many students. Student numbers in Exeter have increased by 33 per cent over the past five years (from 22,540 in 2017/18 to 30,012 in 2021/22) and as a result of this, the demand for housing has increased significantly. For many, it is a time of stress and strain and alongside midterm assessments creates an unhealthy environment.
The majority of students who spoke to Exeposé highlighted that the cost of living crisis has significantly affected their experience with housing. One student commented that “searching for a house at a low price range in Exeter was difficult” and that the majority were “above the range my [their] housemates and I [they] were looking for”. Another student commented that as a result of the recent announcement that the government’s energy support scheme ending earlier than expected “bills from April onwards will definitely make a hit on our finances”.
Exeposé also asked students whether the price of their rents was increasing for next year and the majority of respondents said they had. For one student, the price had gone up by “5-20 pounds” and another had their rent increased by “17 pounds” per person, per week. Moreover, this student had previously “had bills included” but the bills now “exclude gas and electricity”. The student in question was forced to find another property and also called to attention that the rent excluding bills such as gas and electricity “wasn’t mentioned anywhere until we read through the contract (and after we put down a deposit)”.
The majority of students who spoke to Exeposé highlighted that the cost of living crisis has significantly affected their experience with housing
Alongside the cost of living crisis, securing a new house for next year was highlighted by those that responded to our journo request to be having a negative impact on their studies and personal lives. One student noted that the timing of the housing rush was extremely inconvenient as it was occurring “during reading week” and that they have “midterms before and during it”. The student was quick to underline that they “should be studying instead of trying to find a place to live”. Another student stated that their “house has been the most stressful part of [their] year”. One student also stated that “finances are a bit of a worry”, suggesting that the mix of the cost of living crisis, the rush to secure housing and midterm assessments is proving to be stressful for some. When asked if they felt the University provided enough support for students in external accommodations, students were quick to suggest that the support was not sufficient and that more was needed. One student commented that they thought the University “provided the basic resources ok” but “their help was limited” and they were unable to “offer much beyond this”. Another student proposed that “more advice and even financial support should be available” and underlined that the “uni has a duty to care for its students”.
When asked if they had had any issues with their landlord or accommodation providers, students’ responses were mixed. One student highlighted that their landlord “is based abroad so employs a property manager”. The student went on to state that the manager had been “lazy and left our [their] house alone over the summer to develop several key issues.” Another student stated that having been told they would “get early renewal for our [their] flat this year”, the landlord “put it on the market unexpectedly”. This led to the student “stressing over this right before a midterm.”
Exeposé reached out to a private landlord to ask their perspective on rent increases this year. The landlord stated that rent increases were “in line with inflation, mortgage costs and maintenance costs. Those all-inclusive [rents are] making estimates on future energy costs.”
The landlord argued that “to help students the government needs to recognise this and increase accommodation allowances for students. Private rental properties are limited however the demand is increasing due to student population increases each year. Basically, it is a case of supply and demand.” The landlord went on further to state that “there are many good local private landlords in Exeter who are ready to help responsible students with their housing requirements.” The landlord finally added that because “securing a house is a completely new experience for students, they should seek advice from the Uni and Guild.”
Exeposé also reached out to Cardens Estate Agents about the increase in student numbers and rent costs in Exeter. Jon Carden stated that “Students@Cardens handles the letting of around 300 student properties in Exeter, the majority of which are established HMO’s (House in Multiple Occupation).” When asked about the number of properties let in relation to the increasing number of students in Exeter, Carden stated that “there are tight controls put in place by Exeter City Council ensuring that only existing HMOs can be let to students and any homes currently in family occupation should remain in family occupation. So in that respect the number of established houses for letting to students doesn’t alter and the increase in student numbers each year is picked up by the large purpose built apartment developments. This is a common planning approach in many of the UK’s university cities.”
Exeposé also asked how Cardens can justify increasing rent while student loans are not increasing. Carden stated that “the rents for student housing in Exeter are set by market forces and therefore even when student loans aren’t increasing, if the demand for certain types of housing is strong then rents can rise.” He continued “The larger HMOs that are closer to Streatham Campus will generally be at the upper end of the rent scale and those housesgenerally rent first. As at 31st October 2022 we have received applications to rent around 150 properties, and it is the houses in that category that see the greatest demand. Those numbers of ‘lets agreed’ are far greater than has been the case in previous years at the end of October.”
A spokesperson for the University said: “We completely understand that moving to new accommodation, or looking for housing, can be expensive and bring concerns that many students have not had to face before. The University has a range of resources and information available for students, including the Move Smart campaign, while the Students’ Guild Advice team are also available for help and advice as needed. The University also provides Hardship Funds support for students who may be in financial difficulties, including rent and general living costs, where applicable.”
The University has a range of resources and information available for students, including the Move Smart campaign, while the Students’ Guild Advice team are also available for help and advice as needed.University of Exeter spokesperson
A Guild spokesperson also commented “Our Advice team are here to give you confidential, impartial advice on issues including housing. Our website has lots of resources and tips to help with housing issues, from knowing your rights as a tenant, to how to deal with common issues like pests, housemate disputes and property repairs. We would encourage any students having issues with housing to contact us. One of Guild President Lily’s priorities this year is working with the University on a review of their ‘affordability principles’ for accommodation, as well as looking at the suitability of letting terms, so they are in line with student’s needs.”
Article from print issue 737.