For more than two years, the Edinburgh City Council has been hell-bent on Ghetto-ising the student community and in-so-doing embarking on a policy of social engineering that could end up with the city centre being open to only the wealthiest of house-owning residents and leaving students to the mercy of a potentially monopolistic housing corporation.
The hysteria of a small number of city residents over the presence of students in certain areas of the city, such as the popular Marchmont and Bruntsfield areas, have been exploited as political capital by councillors such as Alan Henderson who professes to believe that the overly expensive, halls-of-residence style accommodation provided by such companies as UNITE, is the best thing for students.
As if worried that paying around £115 per week for a single room in a purpose built complex—when the average price to rent in a shared flat is between £75-85—may not be seen as the best thing by students, the Council have long had in the works plans to limit the housing stock available to students, serving to limit the options of some and raise the cost of living for others. Through regulating the number of HMO licence approvals, the council are effectively able to determine how many students are able to live in a given area.
This misguided policy does not only affect students, but young professionals and those unable to afford the heavily inflated prices of a city-centre apartment. The rental sector is crucial to any city, and the HMO quotas will do nothing but damage Edinburgh’s economy and socio-economic diversity.
It is true that anti-social behaviour among Edinburgh’s more transient population must be tackled, but to do so in such a manner that effectively tars all students, indeed all those who don’t own their housing, with the same brush is foolish, and—according to several legal experts—will not stand up when challenged in court. Nuisance neighbours are just than, a nuisance, and must be dealt with on an individual basis. Official warnings and anti-social behaviour orders are powers councils have at their disposal to deal with inconsiderate students keeping young families and elderly neighbours awake at all hours, and they are effective. To set aside “student areas” is really not the ideal way to deal with a relatively straight-forward issue.
The president of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, Josh MacAlister, is right when he says "Students should be able to live where they want to. If they are fed up after first year of living in ‘hall-type’ accommodation, then they should have the freedom to live amongst the community." Students are so often maligned as loud, lazy and obnoxious, exploited by landlords, universities and employers and attacked by point-scoring politicians but let’s not forget our contribution to the local economy and the diversity of the city. We deserve the basic dignity of being allowed to decide where we live.