UK: The story behind post-Clearing student housing struggle
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UK: The story behind post-Clearing student housing struggle

Right now, some students in the United Kingdom – particularly those who are going through Clearing – are scrambling to book a place to stay while they start the next chapter of their life: university.

By this time, however, there usually won’t be many housing options left.

“Demand for student housing in the UK is as strong as ever, especially as we’re about to enter the busy Clearing period,” Student.com head of landlord relations – UK & Europe Tom Sutcliffe told Study International News.

“Whilst there are still rooms available across the country, availability for the most popular properties and room types decreases by the day.”

Students who secured university placements months earlier would probably have snapped up the best housing by now. This means there’s less student housing available, driving the prices of what’s left even higher.

But being late to the accommodation booking party is not the only factor to these high student housing rent prices. A host of other factors are in play here and it all began when the UK government in 2015 removed the cap on the number of students a university is allowed to enrol.

As recruitment went up, so did the overall demand for student housing.

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Students are advised to research housing as soon as possible. Source: Shutterstock

As a result, students are now forking out an average of GBP600 (US778.74) more every year, researchers for Spareroom.com found. A National Union of Students (NUS) report revealed accommodation costs for students went up by 18 percent between 2013 and 2016.

“The Office for National Statistics reveals the average rent in the private sector has risen by eight percent since 2011, whilst the rise in the cost of student accommodation is more than double,” University of Exeter student Thomas Smith wrote in a HuffPost blog.

It’s not hard to see how students from lower-income backgrounds will be put off by these high costs. Even with government loans, domestic students can only get a maximum of GBP5,740 (US$7,449.30) per academic year, according to rates in 2015-16. This leaves them with less than a grand to cover other living expenses, including food and clothing.

While NUS has repeated calls for stakeholders to recognise and address the need for more affordable options, only slightly more than half of the universities it surveyed claimed they are on board.

And with housing providers more concerned about wider market forces (the sector did well last year despite challenges) than the livelihood of the university student, the road to affordable student housing looks to be a long one ahead.

Until then, here’s a bit of advice from Sutcliffe to incoming students this Fall (which should equally apply to local students too): “Our advice to international students, as always, would be to begin your search as early as possible to avoid disappointment.”

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