Mouldy walls, poor value for money, even rodent infestations – these are all depressingly familiar for those in UK student accommodation in 2023. One third of students identified damp in their properties, according to a recent survey by money gurus Save the Student, and another 14% reported inappropriate or unannounced landlord visits. And while rents rocket, alternatives appear to be few and far between.
It is something that Hakim, 27, a Governance, Development and Public Policy MA student at the University of Sussex, does not have to worry about.
Hakim lives in Brighton’s first student co-operative, a shared home run by and for its tenants. They share chores, run their own finances and even set the property’s rent – which comes in at just £540, a fraction of the £1,281 average rent for the area.
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The co-op, South East Students Autonomously Living Together (Seasalt), was formed in 2018 by local university students. Five years on, it’s need more than ever. The seven Seasalt residents are part of a growing student co-operative movement finding solutions to the housing crisis – notably, one that does not involve landlords.
“Living at Seasalt is like living with a family, a community and in a project at the same time,” says Hakim, who moved into the co-op in 2022 from Mexico City. This, she explains, is key to finding balance. The space hosts events such as activism networking and academic study sessions, but still finds time for more typical student activities like communal cooking and birthday parties. Outside of exam periods, meetings run every week and are a vital aspect of the co-operative’s democratic principles.