“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy opines in The Wizard of Oz, before being magicked back to Kansas in her ruby slippers. Unfortunately, this line has not aged well.
In Brighton, there are currently a number of places like home – all situated within a 10 mile radius and inhabited by similarly struggling students. Since some of you may have sold your televisions in an attempt to make ends meet, you would have missed ITV News’s report on 26 October, which referenced a report from Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) outlining the difficulties faced by students following a 14.6% increase in rent over the last two years. Coupled with the fact that maintenance loans have only risen by 5.2% in this time, it is no surprise that many students are forgoing the fun of Brighton in order to spend more time (and therefore less money) inside their cramped accommodations.
While there are benefits of eschewing eateries in the town centre to prepare home-cooked meals, eating at home has its issues. For starters…well, there are no starters, as UK food prices are rising at their fastest rate in 42 years, according to the BBC. Main courses utilising organic or free-range produce may no longer be an option, so the once-simple activity of boiling an egg for some now triggers a moral dilemma. The vast majority of people are having to put any qualms to the side, because valuing high-quality, local produce simply isn’t affordable. In fact, even a weekly grocery shop could now be viewed as a privilege. According to a survey by the National Union of Students (NUS), more than one in 10 students are now relying on food banks to combat the effects of the cost of living crisis.
Perhaps home is no longer where the heart is. Without a heart, it is at least easier to relate to certain landlords. In a deeply distressing case, a vulnerable tenant in London committed suicide in 2021 after a landlord regarded his noise complaints as “whining”. The complaints were not taken seriously, nor adequately dealt with. In August, an investigation into the case ended with an order for the landlord to apologise to the tenant’s family.
Although this example of negligence is particularly disturbing, it is not uncommon for both landlords and estate agents across the nation to seem at best delusional or at worst willfully neglectful. While the freedom of expression is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful aspects of Brighton, it is often abused by those in positions of power, who force cupboards to cosplay as second bedrooms, and leaky sinks to introduce themselves as bathtubs. When viewing a potential second-year home, the lettings agents were keen to point out that the property came with a garden shed. Whether a Year Eight’s Design and Technology project comprising a few haphazardly-constructed planks of wood constitutes a shed is down to opinion. That it was larger than my bedroom is a fact.
Fortunately, there may be some hope, with MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, and Green parliamentary candidate, Siân Berry, demanding action for renters. As well as lobbying for the Renters Reform Bill to come into effect urgently, Lucas plans to amend the proposed law to force landlords to adequately heat rented properties. Many students are affected by condensation and mould in their rented houses, so such a law could have huge effects on student quality of life. Even if the efforts of Lucas and Berry fall short, The Badger’s journalists can rest assured that the paper’s fanbase will grow. After all, newspapers are wonderful insulators.