Durham Students’ Union has written an open letter to the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP, asking the government to offer rent rebates to students and provide “greater support to student landlords, allowing them to treat students with increased flexibility and offer rent reductions, early tenancy terminations or alternative repayment plans”.
The letter, which was written in collaboration with the City of Durham Parish Council, argues that during the Covid-19 pandemic, “students have had their education significantly altered”.
“They have missed out on large parts of the University experience and in many cases have suffered financially, paying for services and accommodation they are not able to use.”
The letter notes that Durham University has agreed to waive accommodation fees for students not in residence in college accommodation during Epiphany Term, and that in February the Government pledged £70 million to student hardship funds.
It also details some of the work Durham SU has carried out to support students during the pandemic, including the development of a Student-Landlord Pledge in collaboration with local agents and landlords, and the expansion of the student-facing Advice Service to provide “housing advice to student renters on their tenant rights, as well as creating resources that support students to negotiate with their landlords to secure flexible re-payment plans and rent reductions where possible.”
However, Durham SU argues that these measures will “never be enough” and that without further support from the government for local student landlords, “we know that many of them simply cannot afford to provide rent reductions or early terminations to tenancy agreements. The government must act now”.
The letter warns that “without firm and decisive intervention by the UK government, students are set to become one of the forgotten victims of the pandemic.”
Durham University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge also wrote a letter to the Universities Minister expressing his support for the campaign led by Durham SU and asking the government to “release funds” to support students renting private accommodation in Durham who cannot afford to pay for their accommodation or are unable to return to their accommodation due to Covid-19 restrictions.
This letter follows an open letter co-signed by the President of Durham Students’ Union, Seun Twins, and the Member of Parliament for Durham City, Mary Foy MP in January which called on landlords and Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) providers to refund students unable to use their accommodation in Durham.
Image: Amana Moore