LUU LEADERSHIP RACE: Time to bring student housing home

Harry is running to be Community Officer, here are his views on making your house hunting nightmares a thing of the past.

Student housing always takes centre stage in the campaign to become Community Officer. Why shouldn’t it? We pay too much, the process is too stressful, and many students feel ill-prepared for the task. While fees are going up and grants are being cut, house hunting should be both affordable and easy.

The union has done some great work making housing fairer for students. Rate Your Landlord is becoming increasingly popular. The housing fair in the Riley Smith hall was a big success. At the Leeds Community Project, we helped deliver the ‘Don’t Let Yet’ campaign, encouraging students to wait for a better deal and informing them of how best to go about house hunting.

It’s time to bring it all together. Rather than a piecemeal approach, it’s time for a wholesale change in how we tackle the costs and culture of house hunting in Leeds.

Last year, Philip Hammond promised a crackdown on unregulated letting fees in the housing market. In the whirlwind of Brexit, it hasn’t happened. There’s nothing to stop us pushing for it to happen here. As your Community Officer, I would call for the ban on letting fees to be enforced, promoting landlords and lettings agencies who have already done so.

We can go further. Deposits are too expensive. Let’s lobby for cheaper upfront costs and make sure students are more knowledgeable about how to claim them back. Summer rent is a scandal. We fork out thousands for having an empty house. Let’s work on promoting more nine month contracts and halving summer rent. All-inclusive contracts can be a real convenience for some students, but often they are unaware of what the usage limits are before signing their contract. Let’s make sure students aren’t being cheated, that usage limits are clearly publicised and increased if they are unfairly capped. University-owned accommodation increase their rents annually around 1.3%, but privately-owned accommodation rent increases are often way higher, hitting first years the hardest. Let’s work with those providers to bring rent increases down.

I’d expand existing LUU campaigns and events to arm students with the knowledge they need when house hunting. I wouldn’t shy away from naming and shaming bad landlords. Let’s help UNIPOL get the resources they need to more frequently check their accreditation schemes, which students often look for when house hunting.

It’s time to bring it home. Let’s sort out student housing together.

Harry Firth Jones, running for Community Officer.

(Image courtesy of The Tab)

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