By Vegard Botterli
Students who rent in Kingston could face paying an extra £200 a year per room if plans for a new housing charge go ahead.
The proposed yearly tax, in the form of a licensing fee, will most likely be passed onto students from their landlords.
Chris Dingle, president of the Kingston University student union, said: “This is simply a tax on students and one has to wonder if this is just being done to generate income from the heavy student population in the borough.
“Additional licensing would be potentially catastrophic for students in Kingston,” he added. “Student housing is predominantly in the private sector in Kingston, and landlords will naturally pass the cost of a licence onto the student, leading to rocketing housing costs, or even worse, driving student letting underground which undoubtedly will lead to horrific conditions in student housing.”
At the moment, the tax only comes into effect when all inhabitants in a flat or house are related. If the tax scheme changes it will also come into effect for “houses with multiple occupancy” (HMO) where residents share a bathroom or kitchen.
This will extend the extra cost to all types of private housing, typically occupied by students or groups of friends, as well as bedsit accommodation and will be charged per room.
According to the Kingston Borough Council website the tax, if approved, will be put into place to “achieve a balance between meeting legitimate housing demand but also to ensure acceptable standards are maintained”.
Mr Dingle added: “This is simply an indirect tax that will do absolutely nothing to improve standards. But it will make life worse financially and environmentally for those living in shared houses.”
Last year The River reported that students were struggling to find affordable housing in Kingston and this has made it possible for landlords to increase the rent by as much as £300 per month.
This has left many students having to sleep on their friends’ floors or having to do long commutes in order to attend lectures.
According to a KU spokesperson there are about 9,200 students living in Kingston. There has been a shortage of student housing in Kingston for several years. The current shortfall is estimated to about 2,500 students having no accommodation locally, making it difficult to participate in university life outside of lectures.
“It is still just a proposal,” said Councillor Derek Osbourne. “So we will just have to wait and see how it progresses.”
Last year a large student housing project in the Kingsmeadow area was scrapped because of environmental concerns, according to councillor Mr Osbourne. He also shares concerns that student living costs could increase in the near futue.
Students can have their say on the issue, as the council has launched a questionnaire for tenants to voice their opinions on the proposal.
The survey can be taken here.