Rector Srdja Popovic recently spoke out on social media against a motion by Fife councillors, a decision which recommends that the current threshold number of HMOs (Housing in Multiple Occupancy) in St Andrews be maintained at their current levels.
I condemn this decision
In a statement, the Rector said, “The HMO ban limits the amount of rooms on offer in St Andrews, which makes it much more expensive, and more difficult to rent in the town as a whole. As Rector of the University I condemn this decision, which flies in the face of student opinion, and Fife Council’s own research which found that the ban has not achieved its stated objectives.”
Mr Popovic also encouraged members of the community to support the “NO to HMO BAN” campaign, sign the petition against the decision, email their local councillor, and register to vote, adding that “councillors won’t listen to your concerns unless they know you can hold them accountable.”
The current petition by the University of St Andrews Students’ Association has reached their goal of 1,000 signatures as of Saturday 12 May, now extending their goal to 1,500 supporters.
On Thursday 10 May, Association President Lewis Wood also criticised the decision, calling it “shameful” and criticising respect paid to students during the public meeting on Wednesday 9 May. According to Mr Wood, he was not allowed to speak despite being referenced multiple times in the debate by the councillors.
In response to The Saint‘s article on Thursday 10 May, East Neuk Councillor Linda Holt said, “It is wrong to imply that Lewis Wood was denied the opportunity to speak. He could have presented a deputation as St Andrews residents did if he had taken the trouble to acquaint himself with Council procedures.”
She also stood by her comment saying the effects of students on local residents were akin to “social cleansing.”
Specifically, she stated, “I stand by my comment that the displacement of permanent residents – including families, children and people who work locally – with a shifting, temporary and primarily part-time population of students could be regarded as a kind of social cleansing. I think a St Andrews academic called it studentification.”
She continued, “It seems to me to be undeniable that the social profile of St Andrews has altered markedly over the last 30 years, and that is largely due to the rise in student numbers. Social cleansing is what it can seem like to some for whom studentification means they cannot, or no longer want to, live in St Andrews.”
exclusive student ghetto
In response to Ms Holt’s comment, Heather Taylor said, “I’m a student at St Andrews. I’m also a full-time resident, have volunteered for local charities, and worked for local businesses. I am friends with my (mostly elderly) neighbours. Yet I am not considered a resident of this town in the same manner that a non-student is.
“I’m sick of this us vs them mentality – and your Katie Hopkins-esque ‘social cleansing’ comment does nothing to foster a good sense of community, inclusion, and fairness.”
In an open letter in the Courier today, Ms Holt said of the meeting, “Councillors felt the solution was not to open up the market to unlimited exploitation by Rackmanite landlords and allow the centre of St Andrews to become an exclusive student ghetto.”
She continued, “Students’ lack of regard for St Andrews’ permanent residents, on the other hand, is all too evident in the high number of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour in the town centre.”