Waking up at 3am to stand in line for Pagan Osborne, running around town like possessed creatures to view Eve Brown properties, and ironing our best shirts to impress Rollo Davidson McFarlane in an interview. Does any of the above sound familiar? One of the most stressful student experiences at the University of St Andrews is attempting to find a habitable flat. As if the anxiety of having to find people to live with wasn’t enough, finding an actual place to live seems near impossible. Want a clean, mould-free flat in town with a landlord who isn’t a freak show? Good luck.
It is difficult to come across students who found their temporary homes easily, kudos if you can. Just in case you managed such a feat, Fife Council is determined to make this a fantastical delusion from hereon. The Council has set in motion a proposal that would prevent the creation of any new Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in St Andrews. This means that if the student population continues to soar, the number of properties to let will remain stagnant. This action would not only undoubtedly increase the average rental rates but also open up a sort of “black market” for illegal landlords. Obviously students are unhappy with this possibility, and worried by the prospect of having an even harder time finding somewhere to live.
The reasoning behind the proposal seems to be justifiable. The cost of living, as we all know, is excruciatingly high, especially in comparison with the surrounding Fife region. Reportedly this situation has become so grave that the number of young families living in St Andrews has dropped dramatically, leading to the closure of a local primary school. The group that is spearheading this proposal, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents Associations (CSARA), outlines a number of grievances towards the high number of HMOs in the town. Their claims are not unfounded, though somewhat scathing towards the students. Apparently we can be held responsible for a number of social problems for locals. One letter to the Courier website outlined a resident’s complaints about the number of student flats. He commented upon Siena Parker’s remark that the proposal was an “insult to students” saying it made him “wonder what part of cloud cuckoo land she is from”.
This comment seems a little extreme, especially as residents and students have lived side by side in this tiny coastal town for the past 600 years. Though it is possible to understand the fears of the residents, especially at a time of economic downturn, this proposal seems to constitute a troubling, sudden move. The town and gown relationship is a symbiotic one; we each rely on one another for certain necessities. Though students are not always the ideal neighbours, local residents can be over-critical or unfairly hostile towards students who, in fact, contribute largely towards the prosperity and welfare of the St Andrews community. In addition, what gives them such exclusive rights and an overriding say in proceedings? True, we do not pay council taxes but we help to ensure that business is booming in the town and make St Andrews apparent on an international level.
University is usually the environment in which most people live independently of their parents for the first time, thus allowing students to experience their “own” house and learn the lifelong skills required to maintain it. For the most part we only stick around for four years, but we make St Andrews our home for that time.