In 2022, the University of Sussex started the lengthy development of the new West Slope accommodation. With the aim of adding 1,999 new bedrooms including single villas, apartments and townhouses, East Slope’s twin residence will be completed to a high standard with excellent facilities.
Sussex has stated the importance of inclusivity within their accommodation options. For example, West Slope will have rooms fully adaptable for students with carers, as well as two bedroom family apartments. However, this could lead to students with carers feeling forced to pay the highest housing fee.
Along with student housing, West Slope aims to provide easy access to fundamental resources to aid students’ academic progress whilst living on campus, such as the provision of a new health and well-being centre. Furthermore, West Slope will expand the number of social spaces on campus by adding a new children’s playground, supermarket, cafe, and designated study spaces.
Whilst West Slope will massively improve the standard of living on Sussex campus, this development has sparked a large debate around housing affordability.
Providing affordable accommodation since the 1970s, Park Village has been demolished to make way for this new and more expensive housing. Formerly, Park Village was the most accessible accommodation on campus, costing £95 per week. Its replacement, West Slope, is estimated to cost more than £180 per week, almost doubling the cost for students.
Furthermore, Park Village was the last accommodation option to be priced at under £100 per week. Now the most inexpensive housing is Norwich House, starting at £119.64 per week. Although the university claims that Park Village has become “very tired,” and that student feedback demonstrated a demand for “high-quality, en-suite study bedrooms”. The lack of affordable student accommodation is becoming a major concern. With the cost of living crisis ever present, students are anxious about being priced out of Sussex.
In October 2022, a group of students started a protest to vocalise their concerns by ‘reclaiming’ the social centre in the former Park Village. Squat The Slope was an effort by the sustainability committee at Sussex. It set out demands with a focus on keeping a third of accommodation on campus below £100 per week. Other demands included that any future developments on campus must not result in the loss of trees, must confirm that there will be no negative repercussions for the protesting students, and must deliberate with a student assembly before construction begins.
Another side of the debate is the ongoing inconvenience imposed upon students who live in close proximity to the construction site. With the restricted access around campus and loud disturbances during lectures and study hours, this makes it a problematic learning environment.
Despite the importance of housing affordability, buildings such as Park Village were no longer cost effective in terms of maintenance, servicing and heating costs. Nor did it meet current student expectations. Whilst there are many valid concerns regarding West Slope accommodation, there are significant positives to this development, too. As a result, West Slope remains a considerably contested issue, even as construction is underway.