Poor housing conditions in York are affecting students’ mental and physical health, according to a report.
An investigation into young people’s experiences of renting homes in the city found that a third of respondents had reported pest or insect infestations and 27 per cent suffered mental health problems due to housing worries.
Renting in York marks “a low point of student life” for many young people, said Patrick O’Donnell, president of University of York Students’ Union.
The study, by Citizens’ Advice York and University of York Students’ Union, looked at the experiences of more than 600 students in the city.
It found that more than half of students surveyed spend 60 per cent of their monthly income on rent – with 19 per cent spending 80 per cent of their income on rent. More than half rely on their parents for financial help.
The study also found that students felt pressure to secure a home well before the start of term, due to friends or a perceived lack of cheap housing.
Struggle to pay
The report says students’ most common complaint was repairs not being carried out in a reasonable time, followed by issues with landlords entering their homes without notice.
And it found that international students faces particular difficulties. The report says language barriers make them vulnerable and international students struggle to find landlords who will rent to them without a UK-based guarantor.
They are also more likely to spend more than £500 per month on accommodation and the study says that despite assumptions, international students say they sometimes struggle to pay their rent.
But the report highlighted instances where students praised their landlords and said not all respondents had a negative experience.
Fiona Derbyshire, chief executive of Citizens’ Advice York, said: “It was clear from our work and the report that many experienced very challenging situations and often had neither the knowledge or support to deal with them.
“We know that many landlords are responsible but this is part of a wider problem we see evidence of on a weekly basis.
“This report will inform our future work with key stakeholders in the city as we explore the recommendations made.”
Affecting their health
Patrick O’Donnell, president of University of York Students’ Union, said: “For all too many students, their time renting marked a low point of student life in York, with bad, substandard conditions impacting mental and physical health.
“Our research exposes real flaws across York’s private rented sector, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on some of the particular vulnerabilities that renters – including students – face.
“We found that poor conditions, poor property management and the hazards such as pest infestations and overcrowding were commonplace features of York’s housing market.
“The challenges of the past year, when our homes have been more important than ever, have highlighted the urgent need to ensure that all of York’s residents can access safe and good quality homes.”
Students were asked what they think could be done to improve their experiences of housing in the city.
Most said they wanted to see better minimum legal standards of property conditions, an online rating system for landlords, more legal advice for challenging poor practice and more pressure from local politicians to address the issues.
Citizens’ Advice York and the students’ union are encouraging people to have their say in a City of York Council consultation on plans to extend licensing for houses in multiple occupation in the city. Find out more at york.gov.uk/consultations
Data was collected from students who rent their homes from a private landlord only and does not include responses regarding university or purpose built student accommodation