Think tank warns HMO fees rise could put students off joining University of St Andrews

The University of St Andrews, students and residents have criticised the rise in fees.The University of St Andrews, students and residents have criticised the rise in fees.
The University of St Andrews, students and residents have criticised the rise in fees.
Fewer students will be able to afford to study at the University of St Andrews because of an 800 per cent rise in HMO fees, a think tank has claimed.

A report by the St Andrews Public Policy Research Group, a think tank founded and run by undergraduate students at the university, said a rise in HMO fees will likely lead to a rise in rental fees for tenants.

Fife Council increased the fees for the university’s HMO licences around 800 per cent, up from just £52,000 to £512,000 every three years. The university currently holds 332 HMO licences, with the council charging a fee for each individual licence, which covers administration, visits for inspections and any other costs. While this charge will go to the university, there are concerns university accommodation rents could be increased, pricing out students who might move into private accommodation.

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The report claims potential students could be put off going to St Andrews because of the higher accommodation and living costs, with Matthew Greenwood writing: “Part of Fife Council’s role is to make Fife appealing for students who come and contribute significantly to the local economy – not to worsen the reality that many students are dissuaded to attend the University of St Andrews due to high accommodation and living costs.”

The report also proposes that fee increases should be gradually phased in rather than immediately introduced as a means by which to lighten the financial burden upon landlords and tenants.

A major reason for the rise in HMO fees is because of how David Russell Apartments will be assessed. Previously it was assessed as blocks, however now each apartment will be assessed individually.

The report recommends that the manner in which fees are calculated for the apartments should return to the same method as used for other student halls of residence “to avoid setting a dangerous precedent”.

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The report states that these proposals would help ensure that HMO-related services are adequately funded in the long term, without having a disproportionately negative effect on the student population of Fife.

The council has said the rise in HMO fees does not need to lead to a rise in rents and that parents and students who are concerned about a possible rise should contact the university. However, the university said it would need to find £500,000 to cover the cost and claimed it was undermining its efforts to ease the pressure on local housing stock.

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