Today I set out how a Green Mayor would help young people afford to live and study in London.
As well as fees and cuts, rents are the new way in which students are being impoverished and exploited, with university hall costs being raised and many students left to find their way in our overheated private rented market.
Young people in our universities desperately need a Student Living Rent because life is difficult enough for them already without the kind of extortionate charges many of them are being asked to pay.
Ryan Coley of London Young Greens, who have set up a campaign to fight for lower rents for students, has been researching their high cost of living and has calculated an initial estimate of what a truly affordable Student Living Rent in London might be.
At £110 the figure takes into account the maximum loan, plus income from six hours of work a week and only includes term time, assuming students will work full-time throughout their breaks. It’s a high figure already for people on low incomes, but the research found that very few university hall places – between 3 and 4 per cent – are currently available below this level.
Ryan says: “London is becoming one of the most expensive cities in the world to go to university. When I set out to look into student rent costs I knew they were expensive but even I was shocked at quite how exorbitant they are across the board. We should either accept that this city is going to be a no-go area for students from any but the wealthiest backgrounds, or we should do something about it.”
On the Huffington Post, I’ve explained the policy further: “It’s based on the principle of the Living Wage, where economists use an agreed formula to work out the annual cost of living in a given location. It’s not binding but when my Green colleagues Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones successfully argued for its introduction to City Hall in 2004, they rightly predicted that the Greater London Authority could use its contract-awarding powers as an inducement for more employers to pay the Living Wage. More than 700 employers in London now pay it.
“My new idea, devised with the help of London Young Greens, is to establish an official figure for a London Student Living Rent on an annual basis. It will be calculated using the latest cost-of-living data, and the maximum loan and maintenance support that a student with no other support from family or grants could afford to pay, while maintaining a suitable balance between paid employment and studies.”
The figure would give a clear goal for students to campaign towards, and in City Hall I’d work with them and the universities to get at least half of hall places available at this rent or below.
Our plans for a London Renters Union, announced last month, would also help students renting from market landlords.
The Renters Union would be independent of but funded by City Hall and would help private tenants stand up to rogue landlords and will lobby for radical reforms including rent controls.