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University announces new £99 rooms for 2020/21 year

The announcement comes after 9 months of campaigning by student representatives.

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Image Credit: DS Pugh & YUSU

The University today announced that it would reduce the rent prices of over 350 on-campus rooms in response to mounting pressure from student lobbyists. The lowering of prices in Fairfax and St Lawrence accommodations is something of an abatement of the disagreement between Sabbs and the University that was first reported by Nouse over 9 months ago, when student representatives first alleged that students held no power in determining rent prices.

The announcement comes as the University reviews annual costings for the next academic year: there has been no word on whether students currently living in “value” accommodations will also receive a reduction.

260 rooms in St Lawrence will be rented for £99 per week in the 2020/21 year, whilst catered options in Vanbrugh’s Fairfax House will cost £139 per week. The figure of £99, down from around £110 per week last year, reflects the ambitious target set at the start of the Wellbeing Officer Steph Hayle’s ‘Rent Rant’ campaign. Hayle commented that the reduction acknowledged the “devastating” student living conditions that students faced, and said that while the announcement represented a “small, symbolic step”, she hoped it would “be the first of many.”

The reduction in catered accommodation costs is a substantial reduction in the catered option for York students. The previous minimum was £153 per week for James or Vanbrugh students. According to the website, the two types of “value” accommodation will differ from more expensive options by making students share washroom and kitchen facilities with a “few more people than some of the other price bands.”

The decrease today, made in consultation with YUSU and the GSA, has not been accompanied by another goal of Hayle’: to place student representative on the University Executive Board. The Board has the final say over on-campus accommodation rates, and, for now, YUSU representation only exists on the advisory Rents Group. Student Officers argued in April that student voices will continue to be ignored without representation on the Board.

Speaking today, the Vice-Chancellor insisted he was “acutely aware” of the stress that stretched finances placed on York’s students and admitted that paying bills was a “source of concern and anxiety for many.” He also highlighted the bursary contributions that 3,000 current students receive towards rent and other living expenses in University-owned or managed accommodation. This bursary scheme amounts to a cost of £4.8 million for the University.

Hayle admitted that this was not the conclusion for her campaign to decrease student living costs. “This win is not the end of the line, but rather a stepping stone in our fight to a fully affordable rent portfolio for the University Of York that allows all it’s students to not just survive, but truly thrive.”

She also commented to Nouse that she was already pushing for further action in the next academic year. “The Rent Setting Process for 2021/22 will be starting soon,” she tells us “I'm going to keep pushing for the university to make a sizable portion of its accommodation affordable for all students. We want to see rooms affordable for everyone, especially those with the minimum level of financial support.  We will also be pushing for massive quality increases, so that the cost aligns with the standards students should be receiving.”

YUSU thanked students for their support and encouraged them to continue to fight to secure a better cost of living. Students can get involved by sharing experiences, photos, and thoughts online to @yusuwellbeing on Twitter, as well as Hayle’s Facebook page. “Making a noise is the best way to be heard, and that’s the whole point of #RentRant. We aren't just ranting, and we deserve to be listened to.”

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