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Brighton student housing manifesto - the candidates' views

We know that housing is a big problem for students in Brighton and the surrounding areas. We worked with students and Brighton Students' Union to create a Brighton Student Housing Manifesto. We then asked parliamentary candidates in the four local constituencies whether they would support our manifesto and you can see their responses below.

The manifesto is divided into three sections, calling for safe and secure homes, fit for living in and fit for study, for property managers to be fair and transparent in their dealings with students, and for the council to allow sufficient numbers of homes in the city.

The manifesto, eight months in the making, grew out of the Brighton Student Housing Forum, in which students spoke about their experiences of housing in Brighton, as well as the Rate Your Landlord report.

Abe Baldry, University of Sussex Students’ Union President, said:

Housing is such a key issue for our members. Too often, students face poor quality housing, with unresponsive or exploitative landlords, and it has to stop. A lot of thought has gone into this manifesto. If these measures were adopted, students, and renters in general, would be in a much better position.

We contacted all of the parliamentary candidates for Brighton Pavillion, Brighton Kemptown and Hove. We also sent it to the party leaders in the local elections with a request that they forward it to their party members, however the party leaders did not reply to this email.

Students in Brighton will be voting for their city councillors and MP on Thursday 7th May and the winning candidates will shape housing policy at local and national levels. Make sure you use your votes.

Candidates for Brighton Pavilion

Chris Bowers, Liberal Democrats - passed on to local council candidates who did not respond

Nicgel Carter, UK Independence Party (UKIP) - Not able to endorse the manifesto but sympathetic to its aims

We are required to avoid endorsing any outside party's pledges and proposals by our party for obvious reasons. However, I applaud your document as a serious attempt to address the housing issues students face, and often others, face nowadays. It is a neglected area. Personally I want to see inspections against crucial criteria for suspect properties for rent, by property professionals at regular intervals...and enforcement of civilised standards. We need a balanced system that helps good landlords and good tenants, while stopping bad behaviour. Enforcement is the key. I am sympathetic to your aims.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party - SUPPORTS the manifesto but has reservations about point 2.2 on Article 4:

I think you’ve addressed many of the concerns I’ve had as your MP and for which I’ve worked hard to find solutions. As a result, I am happy to endorse the vast majority of the calls in the manifesto. My one reservation is around 2.2 and the expansion of Article 4. This is because I think that whilst we need to ensure adequate student housing, we also need to ensure a balance with non-student housing. I am not satisfied that stopping Article 4 Directives would result in a balanced community and would rather see other approaches developed.

Clarence Mitchell, Conservative Party - SUPPORTS the aims of the manifesto

 I am more than happy to endorse fully the aims of your Manifesto and will be supportive of them wherever possible should I be elected in May. In Brighton, high rents, insufficient stock, poor conditions and ridiculous levels of agency/landlord fees are all causing the student population huge problems and stress at exactly the time students should be free to live in a relaxed and productive way in homes that are fit and proper for study. Having listened to students on a wide range of current city issues, I am now about to start distributing a student-specific leaflet of my own to the mainly student occupied areas of the city in which I am make it clear I support and endorse the aims of your Brighton Student Housing Manifesto, so expect to see that appearing in letterboxes soon.

Howard Pilott, The Socialist Party of Great Britain - no response

Purna Sen, Labour Party - no response

Nick Yeomans, Independent - no response

Candidates for Brighton Kemptown

Ian Buchanan, UK Independence Party (UKIP) - no response

Paul Chandler, Liberal Democrats - 'very interested' but no subsequent response

Davy Jones, Green Party - SUPPORTS the manifesto but has reservations about point 2.2 on Article 4

Simon Kirby, Conservative Party - no response

Nancy Platts, Labour Party - SUPPORTS the national policy aspects of the manifesto except point 2.2 on Article 4

I am happy to support the majority of the document where it applies to national policy issues.  Some of the issues raised are within the power of the Council, however, I am happy to make representations to them on your behalf. We need to maintain the balance between housing available for students and family homes so I would need to look more closely at the issues around Article 4.

Jacqueline Shodeke, The Socialist Party of Great Britain - supportive but no firm endorsement

I'm sure your proposals would go some way to improving housing conditions for students. Good luck in achieving them through student union action.

Matt Taylor, Independent - no response

Candidates for Hove

Jenny Barnard-Langston, Independent - no response

Graham Cox, Conservative Party - BROADLY IN FAVOUR of the manifesto but opposes rent control:

As a local councillor on the Planning Committee I have consistently supported applications to build new specialist student accommodation. I find it very odd when people complain about students ‘taking over family homes’ and then oppose building dedicated student homes ... The high cost of housing (including rents) is fundamentally caused by a shortage of supply. All measures other than building more homes are playing at the edges. We will only control the cost of housing if we increase the supply - and the private, council and housing association sectors all have a part to play in getting those homes built. In terms of your Manifesto I am broadly in favour of most of the measures you suggest. I am though against rent controls. They may seem a good idea in principle but in practice they cause many more problems than they solve. In particular rent controls actually reduce the supply of homes - thereby putting up the costs of the non-controlled rents. Rent controls also have always led to landlords reducing investment in maintenance, and even more tenants living in poor quality accommodation. I am therefore very wary of going down this route.

Dame Dixon, Official Monster Raving Loony Party - no response

Christopher Hawtree, Green Party - no response

Dave Hill, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - no response

Peter Kyle, Labour Party - no response

Peter Lambell, Liberal Democrats - no response

Kevin Smith, UK Independence Party (UKIP) - no response

The Brighton Students Housing Manifesto

We, the students at the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton, call for safe and secure homes, which are fit for living in and fit for study. Property managers should be fair and transparent in their dealings with students, and the council should allow sufficient numbers of homes in the city.

We call for:

1. Homes fit for study

1.1.  The council to create and maintain a register of accredited landlords.

1.2.  The council to create and enforce a minimum set of standards to which landlords must adhere to in order to gain accreditation.

1.3.  The council to ensure the continuity of the private sector housing team.

1.4.  The council to support students at the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton to develop a guide for students about life in the local community, including bin collection times etc., and to work with the student bodies to help distribute this guide.

1.5.  The council to make a commitment to work with property owners, landlords and others to continually raise standards in the private rented sector.

1.6.  The council to signpost to the annual University of Sussex Students’ Union Rate Your Landlord survey, to provide prospective tenants with impartial information in their search for private rented housing.

2. Sufficient homes

2.1.  Council approval for university managed or nominated student accommodation, in Brighton and Hove, or on campus at the University of Sussex or the University of Brighton.

2.2.  No further expansion of Article 4 directives aimed to restrict the number of student homes in the city.

3. Fairness and transparency of property managers

3.1.  The council to create a code of standards for property managers which includes standard pricing and timeframes for repairs, with a clear avenue for students to seek redress and receive compensation if these standards are not met.

3.2.  To support increased national regulation of letting agents, akin to that currently in place for estate agents.

3.3.  To call for legislation bringing an end to letting agency fees charged to tenants.

3.4.  To lobby either to ban advance rent or to support the creation of a rent protection scheme for advance rent.

3.5.  To support legislation compelling clear and transparent terms and conditions in contracts, written in simple English, or to include this in the minimum set of standards.

3.6.  To support calls for a living rent, linked to incomes.

3.7.  To foster the establishment of ethical lettings agents, which put residents' needs ahead of profits, such as the Sussex Student Lettings Agency.

3.8.  To support legislation requiring property providers to create both written, photographic and date marked inventories of properties before tenants move in.

3.9.  To support legislation requiring property providers to detail any repairs and improvements to student tenants in writing with dates, providing advance notice of at least 48 hours prior to completing non-emergency work.


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