Around 750 UCL students are now withholding rent payments to the value of over £1,000,000 as the rent strike escalates. Today is the deadline for rent payments for term three.
150 students at Max Rayne House have withheld rent since January 22, demanding an improvement in conditions and a 40% rent cut. Although the strikers have been threatened with eviction, UCL does not appear to have started proceedings as yet.
They are joined by the 500 who pledged to join them in March, and an additional 100 who have signed up since.
The strike has already had a huge impact on campus and in the national media, and that pressure is set to increase. Cut The Rent’s major protest at the end of term 2 attracted around 250 attendees, and a May Day After Party attracted 100.
UCL has stated on multiple occasions that they cannot concede a 40% rent cut. However the growth in striker numbers to 750 – 15% of all halls residents – will put additional pressure on management to concede something close to this.
The Student Barometer consistently finds the most pressing issue for UCL students is the cost of living. Statistics from UCL’s internal survey into accommodation found it to be the second most expensive of eight London universities, cheaper only than LSE, where the average single uncatered room costs £192 a week compared to UCL’s £180. UCL, Cut The Rent asserts that this high cost is not simply due to maintenance, as halls are a very economically efficient way to house students – a £174 room at Campbell House runs at a 45% profit.
UCL Halls and Accommodation Officer Angus O’Brien encouraged students who have not yet paid to join the strike, stating that the strike would open up discourse with UCL on how best to serve its students. “This is the chance for everyone living in UCL halls this year to make a real impact on the future of the university. This isn’t just about the cost of rent today or next year, but about changing the nature of a university that has forgotten who it actually exists for: students.”
He added: “We are now treated as customers and they try to squeeze all the money they can out of us, now we can say no and now we can take back control.”
300 students on an adjacent rent strike at Goldsmiths are demanding more affordable housing, and protesting poor living conditions and lack of maintenance and support. Dozens of students at Roehampton and the Courtauld Institute are also withholding rent. The total number of student rent strikers in London is over 1000.
Featured image: Sarah Benamar.