The case of Hillfort House [Brighton]

With this post, I introduce a new post category to my blog: housing!

It started with the ad [picture 1]

I check my email and see this ad at the top of my inbox. (Thanks, Gmail). It’s adorable – nice colours, fancy font, and a catchy heading – “Up to 6 weeks’ rent on us”. Who wouldn’t want that? Especially in the summer, when your choices are either stay in your university city and spend more than you can afford on rent, or stay rent-free (but not drama-free) with your parents? Plus, they make a good point that so much happens in Brighton over the summer. (Whether those things are things you like is a separate question, unmentioned). So I look into what Student Roost has on offer for people like me (that is, university students – yes, still) this summer.

What’s on offer [picture 2]

Right, I wasn’t looking specifically at that summer promotion. I don’t need accommodation this summer (though I’m moving back down to Brighton in late August, so come see me then), but I am fascinated by the topic of student housing, or what most like to call it – student accommodation.

Actually, what does accommodation mean? My quick Google search says that in British English, so I guess the one relevant here since we’re talking about the UK, accommodation means “a room, group of rooms, or building in which someone may live or stay”. In North American English, though, Google says it means “temporary lodgings, sometimes also including board”. When I encounter the word “accommodation” in the British context, it usually appears to mean the North American version, though – temporary lodgings, specifically for students. Think: the subpage “student accommodation” on every university’s website. It also appears in company names (iQ Student Accommodation, iqstudentaccommodation.com) and their self-descriptions: e.g. Unite Students describe themselves as “the leading provider of student accommodation in the UK”.

But why is student accommodation so temporary?

The answer seems simple – because students are only here for the academic year; they need rooms, not houses or flats; and they’re whimsical. They’re like products you want to attract and then shift elsewhere once they stop being profitable, because they’re disruptive, rowdy, antisocial, etc.

There are only two questions I want to ask:

(1) Why is student accommodation so expensive? and

(2) Why aren’t other types of housing like student accommodation? (excluding the price, forget the price for now – just the system and the kind of rooms and services that are on offer).

Why can’t an employer provide accommodation for its workers [anymore, if you are from a formerly socialist country]? Why can’t we rent rooms from companies instead of from private landlords who may or may not like you, cause you problems (e.g. by being nosy, rude, or restricting your freedoms), provide substandard accommodation, and their number is neither large enough nor reliable? Why has housing became such an issue? There’s more than enough space to go round, and it is a basic human necessity to have shelter. Why is this basic human right still problematic?

Booking process [picture 3]

I wish finding and booking accommodation was as easy as it seems when you look at the booking page of Student Roost. You select when you need the accommodation for; your preferred location; choose add-ons (great for flexibility! for example, what if you could have unlimited laundry done for you? cooked breakfast every day at the cafeteria? linen and specific furniture provided?); and then just provide your payment details and you’re set. Imagine how amazing moving house would be then! No worries, just excitement and the peace of knowing that you have somewhere to live, somewhere that’s not gonna surprise you… at least not in a negative way.

I love this vision, as long as prices are kept low, so that the most ordinary person can afford them. Not high so that only the kids of the rich elites from around the world can live there.

Published by kotersey

Graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First in geography, now studying history of design and material culture at the University of Brighton. Probably drinking iced coffee and thinking about buildings.

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