The general election is over so it’s likely that as politics slowly moves from the spotlight of mainstream media outlets, we will return to our apathetic egotistical mode of life- only concerning ourselves with what the government is up to when we think it affects us most. It would be unfair to say that students aren’t more involved than the average person, especially in recent years as thousands of us have become politically active to protest increases in tuition fees but even this kind of action was provoked by selfishness and the visibility of the issue being protested.
I think student loan debt is the least of our worries when many of us are struggling just to survive through university. As many political commentators have pointed out, our generation has been screwed over in plenty of ways but one of my biggest gripes is property markets. The constant talking about the housing crisis, which was also a major factor in the global economic collapse, has become another big issue that we are forced to ignore and then be called apathetic, despite it being obvious that we have no power to sort it out.
How did the older generations let this happen and why are we to blame? The cost of living is rising steadily ahead of inflation, minimum wage is far below the living wage and young people can’t get mortgages nor save for deposits because all of our wages go into the pockets of some greedy landlord. There are hundreds of thousands of vacant properties and yet the problem is with supply and even MPs are cashing in on the easy money of buy-to-let imperialism- but neoliberalism dictates that rich people should be free to buy up property and simply hold it vacant if it artificially boosts the “market price” of their other properties making them a nice little profit.
When you compare the price and quality of “student housing” with other options, it can quickly become clear that students are being taken advantage of for their inexperience in the rental market. Moreover, many students aren’t aware of how much you can barter in this kind of thing- estate agents and landlords won’t rent property out at a loss so force them to move their price as low as you can and shop around. The market won’t be competitive and we will all lose out if we don’t force them to compete.
Just as the job market is an employer’s market and no one really feels secure in a regular job and settles for poor wages because of the massive supply of workers, there is a class of people who own property that contribute nothing to the economy and reap the rewards of a massive demand from renters and a smaller, easily manipulated supply of property. The usual advice we get is that we should spent no more than a third of our income on housing but when you live off about £7,500 a year, as low income students receiving the full amount of grants do, this is an impossible rule to follow. Just a simple bedsit can take easily take more than half your income, one can only imagine how devastating London housing is on your budget, and we are all locked into 10 or 11 month contracts with estate agents looking for any excuse to keep your massive deposit.
We need to campaign for better quality, more affordable housing, make the market more competitive by shopping around and bartering for the lowest price and asking for shorter tenancy terms- especially considering how many of us leave before our contract is up. Otherwise, bring back rent controls.