"Horrific": Tenant's Union slam University's attitude to housing
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Newly formed ASTU aims to protect the rights of student renters
By: Jake Roslin
Halls on Campus - Photograph: University of Aberdeen
A new Union has emerged on campus to support the rights of student renters. The Aberdeen Student Tenants Union (ASTU) has been set up by Aberdeen University undergraduate Jack Boag and some of his colleagues.
Boag was inspired to set up ASTU after a similar organisation was created by students at the University of Stirling last year. That Tenant's Union was successful in its fight for students who had left campus due to the pandemic to have their accommodation contracts cancelled. They also succeeded in persuading Stirling University to freeze some rents.
"This made me think that the student tenant's union model was one that could feasibly help our student body," said Boag, who is a third-year History and IR student. "I asked a few of my politically inclined friends if they would be interested in helping me set up a student tenant’s union, and they all said yes."
Jack Boag, General Secretary of ASTU - Photograph: Courtesy of Jack Boag
Boag believes Aberdeen University's handling of Covid-19 has been "frankly horrific" for students living in halls. "Students were encouraged to return to campus for a blended learning experience that was never actually feasible. The reason for this is solely to collect rent from them. In addition, most freshers won't be able to socialise with anyone other than flatmates they've been randomly assigned to, and as anyone will tell you not everyone gets on with the flatmates they're assigned to at Hillhead."
Aside from the present crisis, Boag believes University accommodation costs too much. "The University are able to overcharge students because people that are new to Aberdeen won't look at other providers before booking their accommodation. This is also enabled by the fact most private halls providers charge just as much."
"AUSA have been heavily involved in housing activism in the past, and are generally looking to do more. I would propose that they start a landlord accreditation system so that students have a way of knowing that they are renting from a nightmare landlord. ASTU wants to establish a good working relationship with AUSA and encourage them to get more involved in protecting their members' interests."
The new Union is not at this time advocating a rent strike, as has been mooted by some student housing alliances, but "aren't ruling it out should the situation not improve." Boag also believes the NUS should themselves organise a national rent strike due to the collective impact such an action this would have.