Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Degree of Space; One Worried London University Student Highlights a Housing Problem That Faces Thousands

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Degree of Space; One Worried London University Student Highlights a Housing Problem That Faces Thousands

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE BARRY

THE one thing that really worries student Edward Thompson is not his exam results or his student loan, but where he will live after 9 June. In his first year, Thompson, who reads English at University College London, had a room in a hall of residence. But for his second year he must negotiate his way down the difficult path of London's private rental market.

"Admittedly, I chose to be in London," he says.

"And I do get the questionable benefit of a bigger loan. But the situation seems remarkably merciless given the sheer number of students in the city.

Having spoken to friends at Manchester, Cambridge and Southampton, I've yet to come across people paying more than [pounds sterling]65 a week for accommodation, where London students will have to pay a minimum of [pounds sterling]110 to be within a short distance of their universities."

At the last count, in 2004-2005, there were 378,000 students in London, yet only 19 per cent live in university accommodation, according to a 2004 survey by South Bank University for the Greater London Assembly. The same survey shows that, while a staggering 39 per cent live at home, 42 per cent rent in the private sector. And, according to the National Union of Students, average weekly rent in London has gone up over the past five years by nearly 14 per cent, to [pounds sterling]81 a week.

Thompson, who paid [pounds sterling]110 a week for his room in halls, expects to spend up to [pounds sterling]130 a week for a flatshare with three friends in travel Zones 2 or 3.

But it is not just the cost that concerns him. It is the cut-throat nature of the market. Thompson has a summer job in the City, so can afford to sign a rental agreement in June. But most students will be flat-hunting before term begins in September, when competition for good-quality, cheap, relatively central properties is fierce.

The Mayor's London Plan requires local authorities to cater for student housing needs and advocates purpose-built accommodation. But is London still failing its huge student population?

While the situation is not ideal, it has actually improved over the past five years. …

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