Is Durham facing a student housing crisis?



With 2015/16 rent contracts for livers out accommodation soaring by an average of £10 per person per week compared with current prices, alongside the ever-rising cost of college accommodation, there’s no other way of saying it: Durham students are getting well and truly ripped off.

Now I fully accept that it would be naïve to think that UK student landlords would do anything other than try to rip us off, that’s their job after all so who can blame them? But somehow an increase of £10 a week in the space of a year, an average of an extra £520 in a year, slightly oversteps the mark. I’m not denying annual inflation, but this is more like a hot air balloon that has over-inflated and is about to burst. Comparisons with friends at other universities confirmed my thoughts. None of them are exactly paying a pittance next year, and doubtless all universities and their respective cities are witnessing inflation in accommodation costs, but there was no mistaking the look of horror in their eyes when I relayed the kind of prices I’d been looking at in different areas of Durham for next year.

What concerns me the most about this gargantuan inflation is its potential implications. When I decided that I wanted to come to Durham, my selection criteria was based primarily on the university, its merits, and  the quality of the course I wanted to do, average house prices in the area was not the first thing I looked at. Nor should it have to be. If financial considerations regarding housing and accommodation become the key focus of people’s university choices, something has gone wrong. We are undermining the very point of university, especially an institution as renowned and respected as Durham, to provide people with a solid education and allow people to pursue their interests, based on academic and personal merit – not bank balance.

It has always been the case that the cost of any university experience throws up financial strain for a significant number of people, but there are usually ways of managing this, bursary funds and such like. Yet now we could be facing a situation where a majority of Durham’s student population can’t afford to live here. If house prices continue to ratchet up at this rate and by this much, in 5-10 years’ time Durham could have become a university exclusively for rich kids. Is that really what we want?  I’m not denying that a fair few Durham students could still manage that, but not the majority of us.

So why is Durham hit so badly? Someone told me the other day that Durham was one of the next most expensive cities after London in terms of student accommodation, and I felt inclined to agree with them. I suppose part of the reason is that canny landlords have clocked onto the ‘pocket of London in the north’ Durham stereotype. It has to be said, there are a LOT of southerners here. ‘We’ll give southern people southern prices’, they think. The fact Durham is such a small city must also have something to do it. With less houses than big Northern Cities like Newcastle and Manchester there is a greater demand.  Undoubtedly the prices of all university accommodation is rising, but at an unsustainable rate, and especially so in Durham.

What most perplexes and frustrates me about this issue, is the way that we all just seem to accept it. You hear the odd mumble or groan, but no one really challenges these sky high jumps. Admittedly it is difficult to see how, in the short term, we can directly ease the inflation, but what ever happened to student protest? Forget tuition fees, at least we all get a loan that actually covers that, it’s the shambolic state of student house prices that we should be waving our fists at. Be it protests, petitions to the university administration to attempt some kind of intervention or liaison with local landlords, or even just using social media – we could and should kick up more of a fuss.  Or else who knows what the poor old Durham student of 2020 will be paying.


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3 thoughts on “Is Durham facing a student housing crisis?

  • ‘Less houses’ ? Doesn’t Palatinate proofread what it publishes?

  • Move further out.

    We got a 3 bed 2.5 bathroom house in Bearpark for the price of a single room in Gilesgate.
    With the Uni based at Ushaw College, we can use our ID for free travel on the normal bus or walk to the top of the village to get the U1.

  • We’ve just got a modern 4 bedroom house 5 minutes from Hild and Bede for £65 a week. The landlords are a really sweet couple of Durham grads. The house is so modern and neat and the area’s quiet with lots of other students. You CAN get somewhere for your budget.


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