Lack of regard for St Andrews residents (HMOs)

In today’s paper, the President of St Andrews Students’ Association claimed to be “astounded by the lack of regard for students in all the discussions” by councillors when they set thresholds to prevent the proportion of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) from rising.

As one of the councillors present, I am astounded by the student President’s selective hearing. Virtually everyone who spoke expressed concern about the high price of student accommodation and the poor condition of some HMOs in St Andrews.

However, councillors felt the solution wasn’t to open up the market to unlimited exploitation by Rackmanite landlords and allow the centre of St Andrews to become an exclusive student ghetto. One after another called on the University to provide affordable accommodation for the ever-increasing numbers of students it is admitting.

St Andrews University has the lowest proportion of students from poor backgrounds in Scotland, and one reason is the high cost of accommodation in the town. If the University is serious about addressing this inequality of opportunity, then it needs to offer the kind of lower-priced accommodation which students want rather than the expensive, high-end rooms it is currently building. This is also the only sure way to protect students from sub-standard living conditions and unscrupulous landlords.

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. It is triple the next highest rate in north-east Fife and triple the Fife average.

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