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OUSU Letting Agency proposed

first_imgOUSU heard proposals last week which could lead to the creation of an OUSU Letting Agency, to cater specifically to Oxford students.Based on the model of Cardiff Student Lettings, run by Cardiff University Student Union, the proposed agency would connect students with existing rental properties, but only would only include landlords who had signed up to a code of standards put forward by OUSU. A significant number of Oxford undergraduates have to rent accommodation privately at some stage in their degrees, as at least 15 undergraduate colleges and permanent private halls cannot guarantee accommodation for the duration of all courses. The motion at last week’s OUSU council meeting was proposed by Clubs and Socs officer Jacob Diggle. He commented, “Where we live has a massive impact on our university experience – in terms of finances, welfare, academic performance etc. A large number of colleges do not provide accommodation for all the years of a student’s course and so many are forced into the private rental market. This problem is particularly acute for graduates, mature students, international students, students with children etc – all groups currently receiving the least support from OUSU.“The University and colleges will never be able to provide enough space for every student and the private market is an essential tool, but it is unacceptable for letting agents to exploit this demand by telling students to camp outside their offices for days, or provide huge bonds in order to secure a house.”Cardiff Student Lettings was set up 4 years ago, providing a free service for students but charging landlords an agency fee. The agency has made a profit every year since it began, and it was suggested that OUSU might be able to earn money from the project to fund other student support services. The council resolved to look into both profit making and not-for-profit options.Diggle told Cherwell, “As well as providing vastly increased protection for student tenants and charging them no fees, the [Cardiff] agency made £100,000 profit last year. Rather than commanding JCRs to push for a rent freeze, setting up an OUSU Letting Agency seems to be a much more effective tool for improving students’ accommodation.”OUSU Rent and Accommodation Officer Eleanor Brown is currently investigating the logistics of establishing the agency, and expects to have completed an initial report by 6th week of this term. She told Cherwell, “You do find that students are exploited by landlords.” She also agreed that the problem is particularly prevalent for graduate students and international students.The NUS already has a series of guidelines for student housing providers, but Diggle claims these are often ignored by landlords and agents in Oxford. OUSU has also been planning to release a code of standards for landlords and letting agencies next term, and these will now be considered alongside plans for the agency. Oxford Brookes currently runs a similar scheme to the proposal, linking students with a number of privately let residences each year through their ‘Stu-Rental’ shop.Opinions at the meeting were divided on the proposal, with the primary concerns being the feasibility and financing of the initiative. Diggle suggested that with some research OUSU could make a strong enough proposal to the university to be awarded a grant for the start-up costs, however OUSU President Martha Mackenzie responded that it could be difficult to secure funding at this time. Tom Beamont, JCR Vice-President and accommodation representative at Pembroke, commented, “Anything which improves the student experience of rental is obviously a good thing, especially any move towards reducing the extortionate agency fees paid by students in Oxford.”last_img read more