London students built a "cardboard city" outside a property student housing conference to protest against high rates which they claim have become unaffordable to many.
The demonstration took place outside Property Week's annual Student Housing Conference. Tickets to the conference cost £552 - more than some students' monthly rent.
Shelly Asquith, president of the University of the Arts Students' Union, organised the protest and told HuffPost UK: "We are concerned by how our students are being exploited as a result of a housing crisis. In following a model of privatisation; providers, investors and our own institutions are making huge profits at our expense. High rents and a lack of financial and organisational support means students are more likely to be in poor quality housing and unable to make ends meet.
"That is why, as the industry meet today for the Property Week Student Accommodation Conference in Westminster to discuss how much more money they can make from us, we are uniting to demonstrate our own demands as students and tenants for a housing system that serves us, not private interest. Today's conference costs £552 to attend, a sum which shows how priced out students are from influencing the accommodation agenda."
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Asquith and her fellow students who were at the protest, are demanding several changes to the way student accommodation is managed:
- Universities cease to privatise student accommodation and work towards owning and running their own housing and cross-subsidising it so that rents are affordable
- 'Affordability' be based on student income, not market forces
- Institutions act as guarantor for students who are otherwise unable to find one
- Universities provide emergency housing for those in urgent need and adapted rooms for student carers
- Universities provide students with more financial and organisation support: in navigating the private rented sector and informing them of their rights
- Students and Students' Unions be consulted in the procurement process for student accommodation