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On Monday 19 October, students in Paragon accommodation, west London, checked their emails and got a huge shock. They all had a notice of eviction, because the blocks had been deemed unsafe and a fire risk.
We spoke to one student, Joseph, living in the accommodation: "It was a big shock. I was trying to mentally prepare for drama school and suddenly we get this."
Students only moved in a month ago, but for over three years there have been safety concerns about the block. There is scaffolding round some of the buildings, which students believe is from previous work to make the buildings safer, but the company doing the work went bust, the scaffolding was left and the work was never completed.
Students weren't told about any of this beforehand. Joseph said he wouldn't have moved in if he had known about the problems. He made the point that the blocks didn't become dangerous in a day, why were they allowed to move in? Now students are frustrated and annoyed.
On Monday, students were told they were all moving to accommodation in Wembley. On Tuesday, some people were moved. But on Wednesday it got paused, and now students will be scattered over six different sets of accommodation.
For new students juggling Covid restrictions, trying to stay safe, and starting new courses, it's been extremely difficult. Ultimately students just want to live in an affordable and safe environment. They want clarity on the financial support they will receive now they will have to commute to university.
Safe, affordable accommodation and free education are both possible for students to win. It will take getting organised and fighting back against university management, the rotten Tory government, and accommodation landlords. The funding model for universities is utterly broken. A housing crisis across the country has given the space for private companies to charge students overpriced rent for tiny boxes, making a huge profit.
But students and communities can fight back. Many students are angry and demanding rent and fees refunds. Previous rent strikes by students and residents facing unaffordable rent increases have won. In east London, on the Butterfields estate, residents resisted eviction and rent increases. This shows that when we organise, we can win.
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Article dated 28 October 2020
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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