Refugees get student digs

March 9, 2001

Private landlords in Hull are renting out former student houses to asylum seekers thanks to lucrative government contracts, leaving students scrabbling for the few remaining properties.

Parents are fuming because only two years ago there was so much cheap private housing in the city that Hull University could not fill its own beds. As a result the university was forced to sell much of its student accommodation.

But, according to a spokesman, the market has been turned on its head and there is such a shortage of property that students are turning back to university accommodation.

"Unfortunately we cannot bridge the gap and for the first time, priority for university accommodation is to be given to first-year undergraduates and international students," the spokesman said.

John Dodds, whose daughter is a second-year student at Hull, said the family learnt at short notice that she would have to vacate the house she shares with three other students to find something in the private sector.

"This has just been sprung on them while the assumption had been that they could keep their student house as long as they liked," Mr Dodds said. "A lot of students will be desperate, and distracted from their studies by the news."

The Hull University spokesman said the city had taken on a significant proportion of asylum seekers because of the oversupply of affordable housing. "Unfortunately, this has soaked up much of the available student housing," he said. "In the past large numbers of cheap rental houses have made Hull more attractive to students and we would obviously regret losing that advantage."

However, the situation could be reversed again in the near future thanks to the decision by the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside to relocate much of its provision from Hull to Lincoln.

Once ULH has reduced the number of its students in Hull, cheap university housing could become readily available again as Hull University is negotiating to buy much of the ULH campus. However, there is no way of knowing how many asylum seekers will be in the city in two years' time.

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