Students attending Durham University have queued on the street overnight to secure a home for the next academic year, as demand continues to heavily outweigh housing supply in the local rental sector.
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 from year two.
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,” he said.
He said he was alerted to queues forming outside one estate agent at 7.30pm 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.
Thorne added there were stories of freshers falling out with each other in the queue.
He explained: “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.”
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.