The Campaign for Affordable Student Housing was launched on 16 November in response to redevelopment plans for Albany Park being submitted to the Fife Council by the University of St Andrews.
Dan Marshall, a fifth-year student at the University of St Andrews, began the campaign with the ambition to make sure “students’ voices are heard” regarding their desires and expectations for University-supplied accommodation.
The campaign aims to influence the University’s design of the new development, to “relieve pressure on housing in St Andrews, improving the situation for both students and permanent residents, but also help make our University more accessible to people from all backgrounds.”
Albany Park was the cheapest University-managed accommodation available to students, with single rooms being £3,915 per year for standard self-accommodation.
Similar self-catered residences charged £6,486 per year, and catered accommodation averaging £7,000 per year for the 2017-2018 academic year (the last year Albany Park was open to students).
The proposed plan for Albany Park’s redevelopment will see an in-crease in the number of beds available to students increase from approximately 360 to 960 — 400 of these new residences have been allocated as “low rent” accommodation, thereby seeing in increase in the number of low-rent beds available.
The campaign believes that the University could be doing more to tackle the issue of availability of “affordable student accommodation.”
Mr Marshall wants to see a “real commitment from the University and Residential and Business Services, ideally through the development of 100% truly affordable beds at Albany Park.”
To achieve this objective, the campaign aims to reach out to the community to gather support and signatures for their open letter addressed to the principal of the University and the director of Residential and Business Services, which asks for the addressors to “say that they support our goal of more affordable accommodation for St Andrews.”
The priority of the campaign is ensuring that the opinions of students are heard, and to become “truly representative of the student body, willing to stand up and insist that the University has a responsibility to help tackle the crisis of affordability many students are facing.”
The campaign not only wishes to be a voice for students, but also to ensure that these voices are heard by campaigning to ensure that a senior lay member is elected to the University Council who is sympathetic to the “issue of affordability that many students face.”
Many would agree that issues surrounding accommodation and housing in St Andrews have been ongoing for some time. When Mr Marshall was asked why he began this campaign now, he stated that “many of us in the campaign have been working on this issue for months, if not years! Students were never asked about the kind of accommodation we wanted to see at Albany Park until the plans had already been submitted to Fife Council. Campaign convenor Dan Marshall wants to make sure “students’ voices are heard”
“We now feel it is important for the student body to state explicitly that we want more affordable accommodation and not more luxury, en-suite rooms.”
The request for demolition of Albany Park has been approved and work is expected to begin sometime this month.The new development will include a seasonal café and car parking in addition to the student living space.
Mr Marshall stated the issue of“affordable housing” was important to him as “over the years, St Andrews has come a long way in widening access and starting to shed the image that we are an elitist institution.
“I know the University shares my ambition that St Andrews should be open to everyone from any background, but I fear the message that we will send if we choose to build expensive en-suite accommodation in place of what was previously the most affordable accommodation in our town.”