As a student, trying to find a flat in Edinburgh is a fairly traumatic experience. Often equipped with a very tight budget and little experience, students are regularly left feeling cheated by private letting agents. The uneasy chatter which fills campus as peak flat-hunting season ensues is yet again awash with horror stories of eye-wateringly high rent for less than satisfactory flats.
Second year student, William Lawrence encapsulates the problem facing students entering the real estate market, explaining: “We just don’t know what to expect. There are no guides on what rent should be or why or how much it should be going up. We’re just kind of at the mercy of what the letting agency says is a good price or what we’ve heard from friends.”
Just the prospect of securing viewings is migraine inducing – flats going up on agents’ websites are often fully booked well within the hour they are posted. However, perhaps our tendency to get hung up on the numbers is preventing us from being reasonable about flat hunting in one of the most sought-after, safest and most beautiful cities in the UK.
According to Numbeo, Edinburgh rent prices are a staggering 55.19 per cent lower than London’s, and though they are still 12.07 per cent higher than Glasgow, this can perhaps be forgiven considering Edinburgh’s status as a capital city – a fact that can easily be overlooked. With a population that doubles over the Fringe, during term time Edinburgh is a relatively small and comfortably populated city. Students are rarely situated more than a 20-minute walk away from George Square, no matter where they live. Such a prospect in neighbouring Glasgow or fellow capital city London, would be a hugely attractive selling point.
Though London students are offered a higher student loan to cope with the immense cost of living, having to fork out 50 per cent more than Edinburgh students just for accommodation still comes as a hefty blow to undergrad budgets.
Less promisingly however, data courtesy of the Student Loans Company indicates that the average student maintenance loan has increased by 17.5 per cent since the 2011/12 academic year – while rent prices have inflated in price by as much as 28.7 per cent for a four bed flat in Edinburgh in the same amount of time. Students are paying on average £100 extra on rent per month than they were four years ago, more of which is coming out of their own (or at least someone’s) pocket. Students are relying increasingly on parents to back them up, and when that fails, some are forced to take up jobs which infringe on their studies.
Thankfully, the topic is finally being debated by those who can make a difference. Candidate for the University of Glasgow Rector, Aamar Anwar, has recently pledged that he will apply to Glasgow City Council to introduce a cap on student rent prices. If successful, he promises to “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,” which would see Edinburgh students benefiting too.
Although by the time any real difference has been made we will hopefully be living somewhere considerably more pleasant than our precariously insulated and often unreliable student flats on our own income, at least a start is being made.