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Union fights against likely rent increase on campus

The University of Sussex Students’ Union is pushing for a three-year rent freeze across campus after figures show that the new Northfield residence will increase average weekly rent to over £100.

The addition of Northfield student accommodation will increase average weekly rent from £99.03 to £103.03, whilst the removal of East Slope would further raise this to £106.84.

Northfield is situated behind Lewes Court and will open this September, at the start of the new academic year. The University of Sussex explained that the “highest-quality rooms are significantly oversubscribed – and Northfield will help to cope with that demand.”

The 777-bed en-suite housing unit is expected to be priced at a similar weekly rent to Swanborough, which is currently the most expensive accommodation on campus.

The union aim to combat price rises by pushing for a rent freeze across campus, maintaining current rent for the foreseeable future.

The University of Sussex commented on the rent increases: “Rents for all other residences will increase broadly in line with the rate of inflation, which the Bank of England (as of December 2010) says is between 3.7 percent (CPI) and 4.8 percent (RPI).

“In terms of specific figures, Park Village rents will increase by 3.35 percent for 2011-12 and rents for all other residences will increase by 4 percent.

“Rent levels are reviewed annually and are always discussed with the Students’ Union.”

A decision is yet to be made concerning the future of East Slope accommodation, which is in need of rejuvenation and risks demolition or reconstruction in the 2012-13 phase of housing strategy.

The union want the university to build new accommodation without en-suite and “to occupy the position that East Slope does currently at the bottom of the price range.”

They have argued strongly that there should be lower priced housing accessible to students with restricted budgets.

The union added that they “are in the process of building a report on students’ experiences of living in East Slope in order that future considerations of the future of accommodation at Sussex are informed by real students’ perspectives.

“To ensure that a Sussex education remains accessible to students from all backgrounds, it is essential that there is a commitment to widening participation on the part of the institution.

“This ranges beyond rent prices to issues like scholarship and bursary provision and active outreach to students from lower income backgrounds.”

According to NatWest’s seventh Student Living Index, Brighton is no longer the country’s most cost-effective city. The city fell by 18 places to 19 out of a total of 25 cities.

The annual survey conducted last year, found that students in Brighton pay the most for rent and costs for travel appear to be higher than other major UK university cities. London, a new entry, is the most cost-effective city.

Next year’s rent levels have already been set and will be published online and in the University Housing Guide 2011-12, but the union seeks student support in urging the university to provide “as much emphasis on the affordable end of the market as the top.”

The university said: “We recognise the need to provide a range of accommodation to ensure affordability for all students and for 2011-12 have reduced in real terms the rents in Park Village in order to offer lower cost housing.”

However within Park Village nine of the houses have been complained about frequently by its student occupants, as they have bare stairs, dated kitchens and unreliable shower units.

Currently paying the same rent as those in the modernised houses, one disgruntled undergraduate commented: “We’ve been wondering all year why our rates are not reduced considering our facilities are not that different to East Slope – though they at least get a table!”

If students want to be involved in the campaign for a rent freeze for three years, or have any comments about the campus accommodation situation, contact Cameron Tait, Students’ Union President via e-mail at president@ussu.sussex.ac.uk or Jo Goodman, Students’ Union Welfare Officer via e-mail at welfare@ussu.sussex.ac.uk.

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