High cost of student rents needs capped by government to improve education access, says Aamer Anwar
NEW POWERS should be used to limit steep increases in rent prices that puts financial pressure on students and the wider community, according to Glasgow university rector candidate Aamer Anwar.
Anwar, one of 12 candidates running for the post, revealed that pressing for rent controls would be one of his main priorities if elected in his campaign manifesto.
Rent prices – both in student halls and in private accommodation – have soared in major university cities in Scotland, especially in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen. The increased costs have placed extra burdens on students and families trying to afford access to higher education.
Anwar, launching his campaign with a series of speeches on the university’s west-end campus, said: “With rents in the west end rocketing by up to 10 per cent each year students are being driven further in debt and insecure accommodation, the only way this can be tackled is if the west end is finally designated a rent control area.”
He added that if elected the human rights lawyer will “lobby the university to call on Glasgow City Council to use its powers to designate the West End a Rent control area” and “lobby the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament for a national system of rent controls which would deal with a housing crisis which forces our students into unaffordable and insecure accommodation”.
The Private Housing (Tenancies) Act 2016 re-introduced the power to cap rents if councils ask for an area to be made a ‘rent pressure zone’. New councils elected in May will gain these powers for the first time after a successful campaign by Living Rent, Scotland’s tenants union.
“With rents in the west end rocketing by up to 10 per cent each year…the only way this can be tackled is if the west end is finally designated a rent control area.”Aamer Anwar
The same campaigners previously highlighted how rent controls can reduce inequalities in education. Rent costs would improve access to higher education for the poorest pupils by limiting the living costs of higher education. Rent controls is also a policy of the National Union of Students – who state that housing is among one of the top concerns raised with the student body.
The Scottish Government concedes that financial barriers to education are a huge problem that can put off people from lower income backgrounds from applying, or continuing studies onto post-graduate degrees.
Focus on reducing education inequalities has often fallen on tuition fees, grants, or bursaries – rather than on reducing the root cause of high costs of living for students, namely the escalating cost of rent in city hotspots like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen.
In 2016 Glasgow University student president Liam King pointed out that rent costs in student accommodation had rises 14 years in a row. Students at the University of London launched a rent strike last year in opposition to increasing costs.
Meanwhile, university principal and student leaders made a wry interjection into the rector race by suggesting that the winning candidate would have to ascribe to “university of Glasgow values” including equalities and opposition to hate speech.
— Uni of Glasgow (@UofGlasgow) March 8, 2017
Thousands signed a petition to remove Milo Yiannopolous, a poster boy of the internet-led far right, due to his hateful remarks towards a wide range of social groups.
Other rector candidates include Hazel Cosgrove (Court of Session judge), Brace Belden (left-winger currently in Syria fighting in the armed resistance against Daesh), and ex-LibDem minister Vince Cable.
Picture courtesy of Youtube
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