Obtaining student housing has never been easy in Durham, but this year it is likely to be harder.
The data shows that there are still plenty of houses in Durham and the idea that the city may ‘run out’ of student housing is not substantiated. But as prices rise this year, many students will be priced out of the areas they want to live in. And this will result in competition for the most desirable houses, prices and areas.
The Michaelmas housing rush in Durham is an almost fabled entity. It is a phenomenon that has persisted each year in student memory, and is not one that is likely to go away, especially as student numbers expand.
The yearly ritual of house hunting — wandering around Durham in the cold afternoons of November, knocking uninvited on the doors of student houses, queuing outside an agent at 9am to be the first in — is illustrative of a system that has failed.
The solution to such a longstanding problem is not immediately obvious. But there are a few things that could be done to address the issue.
Agents have long been called upon to unite in releasing houses later on: this may not prevent the rush, but a later rush would at least provide an opportunity for first years to get to know their potential housemates better. University accommodation, if offered at a cheaper rate, could provide an affordable alternative to living out, reducing the pressure on city housing.
And if the University is to prevent a worsening student housing situation, it must take into account the availability (and affordability) of housing when it chooses to expand student numbers.
Image by Mark Norton