Sussex housing forum
A consultation was chaired between University of Sussex students and national lobby groups on housing issues by the Students’ Union President on the 14th of November.
The meeting brought together both Abraham Baldry, the President of the University of Sussex Students’ Union, the University of Brighton Students’ Union President Candice Armah, and students from both Universities in Brighton to discuss the key housing issues. Additionally, in attendance were representatives from both Universities’ accommodation departments, as well as lobbying groups.
Lobbying groups attended to understand the specific conditions and stresses faced by students and the meeting examined issues around housing conditions including safety and security, agency and landlord relationships, and the costs and fees levied against renters.
Generation Rent and Living Wage, both national organisations, were in attendance discussing how the declining conditions in rental accommodation and the lack of value for money is particularly relevant to students. Movement for Change, a membership-led organisation, discussed their Home Sweet Home campaign running in both Universities to demonstrate the level of rental accommodation stresses on renters, in particular, students.
Discussion from students about housing conditions included a former University of Sussex student who is currently in a
high profile legal dispute with a Brighton-based housing agency on the conditions she and others face in the rental sector.
It was confirmed that neither of the Universities in Brighton provide a housing advocacy service to support students with ongoing disputes with agencies or landlords, with no indication that either university had the intention of creating such a service. Although, housing advice and information is provided by both the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton to equip students to deal with issues themselves.
Other Universities supply individual advocacy for students engaged in disputes with landlords and agencies, although this is not currently funded by the University of Sussex. Sussex Student Lettings, part of the University of Sussex Students’ Union, was highly praised during the meeting for providing an ethical approach to letting. The approach is considered a good practice at other Students’ Unions in serving student needs in a market catering to agencies and landlords over renters.
The meeting resolved that in the run-up to the general and council elections in Brighton, student housing needed to be a key issue, and that there are significant opportunities to influence potential Members of Parliament and local councillors seeking election. The meeting agreed that prospective officials should be approached by students demanding better conditions and a fair approach in the rental market. Both Students’ Union Presidents con- firmed that it was a key campaign priority for them in the coming year.