Tom Copley, the chair of the London Assembly Housing Committee, has written an open letter to Boris Johnson warning against purpose-built student housing in London catering solely “for an affluent market.” London has the highest percentage of international students in the UK, with London First and PwC stating that out of 366,605 students, approximately 67,000, (almost 20 per cent) are international.
Many of these students come from wealthy backgrounds—the costs of studying in the UK as an international student are great, with tuition fees alone being £27,000 per year to read a science subject. International students are therefore estimated to bring in huge sums of money for the capital’s economy; one report noted that they provided London with an extra £2.3 billion in a single year, less £540 million for public service costs incurred.
As well as the increase in volume of international students, increasing privatisation of the student housing market in London has caused rents to skyrocket, with the average weekly price in 2012/13 rising by 26 per cent to £157.48 since 2009/10, according to an annual NUS survey.
As well as standard accommodation prices being on the rise, properties are being shouldered out of the way by investors clamouring to create luxury flats for the more affluent students from whom they can generate greater profits.
A new development in Camden designed for students has top prices reaching as much as £355 per week. To give some perspective, Save the Student has recorded the average weekly rent for a student in Manchester as £75.
A current third year student at UCL commented: “Students are being squeezed out of the housing market. I know loads of people who choose to live at home and commute purely because of the cost… I’m bleeding out of my pockets to live in Zone 1. It’s definitely becoming more tailored to an overseas market.”
Housing privatisation is causing ordinary families to rule out London universities as higher education options because the cost is simply too great. Copley has urged the Mayor to provide “more affordable housing in London” by altering his policies on the issue, suggesting that Johnson “encourages inner London boroughs to require that new student accommodation contribute towards the delivery of affordable housing.”
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