Durham University students queue overnight to secure accommodation – BBC

Durham University students have queued on the street overnight to secure a home for next year, amid claims of a lack of accommodation and rising rents.
Hundreds lined up outside estate agents in the city after lists were released.
One student said someone showed up at his house for a viewing, having already signed up for it "in a panic".
The university said it had "anticipated pressure" on the private rental market and increases in rent, and the issue was receiving its "urgent attention".
Durham Students' Union described the housing market in the city as "broken" and claimed increasing student numbers were "putting students' welfare, and education, at risk".  
First year undergraduates in the city have guaranteed university-managed accommodation but have to find their own housing after that.
Lettings agents in the city release available properties for the next academic year in a process known as "the drop".
Third year engineering students Tom Richardson and Peter Thorne told BBC Look North they had queued for six hours for a house and still did not have a room confirmed.
"I think it's quite simply there's too many students and not enough houses," Mr Richardson said.
He said he was alerted to queues forming outside one estate agent at 19:30 BST the previous night.
"We decided to get up at about half three, get there for four and then queue straight the way through," he added.
"It was absolutely manic – people had camping chairs, tables set out, loads of blankets – by the end, when people started moving it looked like a dump site."
He said people had got "more and more desperate" when new lists were released on different days.
Mr Thorne added there were stories of freshers falling out with each other in the queue.
"We had people last week coming to our house saying 'we have already signed your house, we queued since 5am', and they had no choice but to sign a house in a panic basically, without even looking at the house.
"I think it's terrible for the first years – the first two years for us were very easy to try and get a house and now it's just such a change, it's been quite bad, we still haven't found one but we are hoping for the best."
Footage filmed by student TV channel PalTV, shared with the BBC, shows students camping overnight.
Some told student reporters they were doing shifts with housemates and others had joined the line from a night out, with others keeping them warm with hot drinks.
Emily Doughty, news editor of student newspaper Palatinate, told BBC Radio Newcastle that prices had upped "massively" and she had heard of a case where £85 per week accommodation was going for £189 per week.
The newspaper has been investigating the student rental market, reporting that some had "missed lectures" so they could queue, over fears they would have to pay higher prices.
"It's become unaffordable for most students," the liberal arts student said.
"A lot of houses are bills included, that's why prices have been raised.
"We have got to a real problem where low income and working class students are going to be priced out of the city."
The students' union said "dramatically inflated" housing prices were "inexcusable and unacceptable".
"The university bears part of the responsibility for this crisis," it said.
"Bringing students to Durham without knowing that the city, and surrounding area, is able to house them – in university beds or not – is irresponsible."
It has called on the university to "declare a major incident" to help in the immediate term and "urgently review" its student number intake for 2023-24.
"Landlords and estate agents also bear some responsibility for the current situation. Advertising tactics and early-timed releases build pressure on students which is unfair and unnecessary, especially during a cost-of-living crisis," it added.
The university said it had "engaged in a dialogue" with the city's letting agents and was in touch with the county council.
It encouraged students to contact their college if they were facing difficulties and said it was setting up a housing group. It said some returning students may be able to live in university-managed accommodation.
"The exceptionally early rush for accommodation was unexpected, and we have been working rapidly to communicate with and offer additional support to our students on this matter," a spokesperson said.
The university added that it had "experienced exceptionally high demand" for university accommodation, blaming a higher student intake post-Covid due to "unexpected national shifts" in the grading of exams.
"Our overall intake was smaller this year than in the previous two years. We are continuing to target lower intakes than those that we were obliged by external circumstances to take in 2020 and 2021."
Michael Kelleher, Durham County Council's head of planning and housing, said the local authority was "aware of and concerned" by reports of students queuing outside letting agencies.
"While like any other council, we cannot control what private landlords charge for existing rented properties, we do work with developers through the planning process to ensure new housing schemes offer a mix of accommodation," he added.
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