Up to 750 students could be left without accommodation for September 2017, due to a shortage of rooms on campus and in the city, UEA SU has revealed.
The university has responded to this housing crisis by adopting emergency measures to increase the number of bed spaces on campus: these include the division of some campus rooms with bunk beds as well as introducing a new University Lecturer Homestay scheme that will see a number of students housed with lecturers. This shortage will mostly impact current first years wishing to move off campus.
HomeRun opens on Friday 20th January however, the SU fears that not enough bed spaces will be available for students wishing to move off campus. The university recruited more students than expected this year, although have agreed to a temporary expansion freeze for 2017/18 entry due to intensive SU lobbying. However, there will still be in an additional one thousand extra students on campus in September.
In order to provide bed space for the increased number of soon-to-be second year students the university has agreed to a “stay on campus” scheme for returners, encouraging students to stay in campus accommodation, generating an additional 325 bedspaces.
80 bed spaces have been secured within INTO, a new University Lecturer Homestay scheme will generate approximately 50 bedspaces, and 13 rooms have been made available in Suffolk Terrace due to the relocation of counselling services. Some larger rooms on campus will be converted into doubles, offered at a significant discount, and some rooms will be converted into “bunk bed twins”, priced between £53-57 per student, per week. A number of ensuite “family rooms” will be converted into doubles and offered at a significantly discounted price. In addition, some of Broadview lodge, which has 63 rooms in total, will be converted into temporary student accommodation.
The SU also believe an additional 175 bed spaces can be found in the city.
The university is also considering changing the planning format of the buildings at Blackdale, which may now be larger than previously intended and feature shared bathrooms to maximise capacity.
Commenting SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust said: “Although getting there has been like pulling teeth, the University’s stay-on-campus plan is a good start- and the creation of a new category of accommodation at the affordable end of the market a welcome development from a student hardship perspective.
“However, we remain hugely concerned about the Norwich housing market – when demand outstrips supply prices will go up and safety will go down – and most importantly we’re furious this has all been noticed and acted on too late when the University has known its expansion intentions for years.
Ms Rust added that is was “galling” that despite the increase in profits made by student accommodation last year, the university was insisting on “hiking rents” by more than inflation every year for a decade: “We all know that the campus needs investment but doing this on the back of student hardship is unacceptable.”
Last year (2015 – 16) UEA accomodation generated £4 million in profit, around £750k more than it said it would make a year ago.
She continued, “In the context of big profits and poorly planned expansion, the idea that the only way to get affordable accommodation is if you share a desk and bunk up is outrageous. So we’re also calling on the University to do a number of things- develop and publish a proper assessment of student accommodation affordability, and create a proper on and off campus expansion plan that deals with the crises we have now.
Due to the increased university expansion, many students this year have had to find homes far off campus and away from university bus routes. Ms Rust said, “We also want to see the University liaise properly with the council, FirstBus and the SU over its plans, and invest in a rent guarantor scheme like other institutions have so that international students -— most likely to be caught in the current housing trap — have somewhere to live in 2017.”
In recent years the university has expanded significantly and this combined with a significant tightening of the Norwich housing market has restricted the number of houses available to students. The local community has been threatening Article 4 that would would limit the number of ‘Houses of Multiple Occupancy’ within the student areas. Discussions on Article 4 have been delayed until 22nd March 2017.
The university said, “Due to successful recruitment rounds in the last two years, the University is not anticipating any significant growth in overall student numbers until 2020. However, the cumulative effect of several large cohorts currently progressing through the system means there will be one thousand additional students on campus from September.
“The University is developing detailed plans to ensure the excellent student experience at UEA is maintained for all students. Every aspect of our teaching provision and student services is being scrutinised and new arrangements developed accordingly.
“We are also aware that there is likely to be increased pressure in the private rental market this year and have taken a number of steps to ensure that no student progressing into their second year will be left without accommodation. As well as actively monitoring the number of residences available in the city and liaising directly with private landlords, the University will be increasing accommodation capacity on campus significantly from this September.
They continued adding that, “In response to demand from students, this will include a low-cost bunk bed option – as has been introduced at a number of other universities in recent years. The price will be £53 to £57 per person, per week depending on the size of the room. Demonstration rooms will be available for students to look at next month.
“The University will continue to work in partnership with the Students’ Union to support students in finding accommodation for the next academic year.”