The Students’ Association has delivered a damning assessment of a private accommodation service after it chose to charge students annual fees of more than £10,000 for a self-catered room.
The Student Housing Company, whose new private accommodation Ayton House, located next to the harbour and due to open in September, will charge students £210 per week on a 51 week lease for its Super Deluxe Suite, totalling £10,710.
The most basic room available, the Standard Ensuite which is also self-catered, carries a £8,415 price tag which will set students back £165 per week over 51 weeks. By contrast, a catered room in McIntosh Hall costs £5,945 while a catered ensuite in David Russell Apartments [DRA] carries a price of £7,423.
When asked what sets Ayton House apart from University accommodation, a Student Housing Company representative told The Saint: “It’s a bit like Marks and Spencer and Asda,” a reference to the British high-end retailer and budget supermarket.
In an interview with The Saint, Pat Mathewson, Association President, revealed that a focus group urged the accommodation provider to reconsider the price but without success. “Frankly, we believe they’ve misjudged the market they are entering into,” he said.
“In an effort to convey this message, along with a range of issues at the heart of the student experience, the Students’ Association arranged a focus group of approximately 25 students to speak directly to the developers.
“The current price point was flagged to them as a major issue by nearly everyone around the table. If they hope to live up to their name, The Student Housing Company should take on board the concerns of the community it aims to join.”
Mr Mathewson’s words were echoed by Verity Baynton, SRC member for private accommodation. “We don’t think it is a reasonable price which is a message that was strongly conveyed to them in our focus group meetings,” she said.
However, despite the Union’s warnings, the high price tag has left many students undeterred. According to their website, the Student Housing Company have only a limited number of rooms remaining. Bob Crompton, Chairman of The Student Housing Company, told The Saint: “Bookings at the new accommodation Ayton House in St Andrews are going very well and we have a long waiting list for viewings.”
He also dismissed Mr Mathewson’s comments about the high price. “The students really seem to appreciate the value of fully inclusive bills and we look forward to welcoming the residents when they arrive in September,” he said.
However, William Marshall, a first year Economics and Management student who is seeking accommodation in Ayton House, told The Saint that the cost was “on the more expensive side, especially seeing as I pay considerably less in DRA which is fully catered.”
He described the length of the lease, which extends to almost a year, as utterly pointless. He said: “The 51 week lease is what I found most surprising. It’s pretty clear that no student really needs to keep his room over the summer holidays. Obviously they want to secure as much rent as possible but the Student Housing Company could easily rent the rooms for two weeks this summer at considerable rates during the golf Open.”
The Student Housing Company’s website claims that the “bespoke designed common room in a contemporary yet vintage style reflects the local area and features zones designed to meet your every need.”
Despite the Union’s condemnation of Ayton House’s price tag, the Students’ Association website has advertised the residence since Christmas. Mr Mathewson commented: “Their advertising will have been purchased through our commercial wing.”
At Refreshers’ Fayre, on Sunday 1 February, the Student Housing Company were given a table next to the Union’s entrance to advertise their new accommodation.
Ayton House will, however, provide 241 sorely needed beds for the student population. The redeveloped Fife Park Houses, due to open next academic year, and further private accommodation on East Sands, due to welcome residents in September 2016, will also ease accommodation woes.
The University declined to comment on the cost of Ayton House.