Editor: With students across the UK having been hit hard financially by the pandemic as they pay for unused student accommodation, the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector also finds itself disrupted by financial turmoil as it tries to resolve the issue without support from the government (‘Unite offers students 50% rent discount during latest Covid-19 lockdown’).
While universities are beginning to issue rent rebates, not enough is being done for those students living in privately owned PBSA or HMOs. Without adequate support, it is not surprising that students are left feeling disregarded and unheard by the government and their universities, causing them to strike on rent payments.
The situation with Unite Students in Scotland clearly underlines the need for flexibility in student accommodation bookings right now. Not only will the financial damage have repercussions, students’ educational experience has been disrupted more broadly, which will have knock-on effects they remember and suffer from for years to come.
PBSA providers must do better, but there’s also an urgent need for the government to step in and support the sector so that these operators can be flexible with students. The Scottish government has set out Covid-19 protections for student tenants but there’s nothing in place for PBSA suppliers to help them survive, and that has to change.
This pandemic has shone a light on an undeniable need for flexibility in student accommodation bookings and we’re asking the government to support students and the higher education sector as a whole.
There is an urgent need for adaptable solutions that allow students and accommodation operators to better cope with situations like this. In the meantime, the UK government must recognise that without financial support, students will suffer and there will inevitably be a knock-on effect that will impact the higher education and PBSA sectors and greater economy for years to come.
Lydia Jones, chief executive and founder, Housemates