On Wednesday, representatives from both YUSU and YSJSU sent a letter to City of York Council that asked for support for students in privately rents accommodation. Steph Hayle, YUSU’s Community and Wellbeing Officer, and Kirsten Jolley, YSJSU’s President of Wellbeing and Diversity, sent the letter to the Council yesterday with a set of requests that are meant to alleviate the financial pressure off students.
The letter asked City of York Council for a number of measures to be put in place. The first was to “ensure short term measure, such as payment plans or deferments of payment”.
Hayle and Jolley also rallied City of York Council to “work with landlords and letting agents via the Residential Landlord Association to create mitigating circumstances that will ensure that should a student no longer wish to live in their home, and decide to vacate the property early, they will face no financial implications in doing so”. When asked about any conversations between YUSU, YSJSU, and the Residential Landlord Association, Hayle told York Vision: “We have been in touch but are awaiting more formal responses. We have called on the Council to work alongside them in their response to the crisis too”.
The letter also asked for the council to “consider supporting student nurses, and other Health Sciences Students with accommodation and hardship loan support”. York Vision asked Steph Hayle whether the language used for this recommendation could have been stronger, to which Hayle told us, “We included this separate point, more lightly phrased in the hopes of reminding the council specifically about those students and the sacrifices many are making for us, but also to appeal to the decision makers on a more personal level. We didn’t feel the need to use strong language for this point, as we believed the Council would understand the severity of what we were asking for without using it”.
Hayle and Jolley end the letter by saying: “In writing this letter, we are not just voicing our own concerns. Our remits enable us to represent, collectively, over 30,000 students. We speak for them, their stresses, their worries, their uncertainty at this unprecedented time. The recommendations outlined in this letter are of mutual benefit to all stakeholders, and we believe them to be the most appropriate way to ensure that this short term problem is resolved swiftly and efficiently”.
York Vision asked Hayle how likely it was that the requested measured would be put in place, to which she said, “It is hard to say as it depends largely on whether the wellbeing of their clients is a priority for the landlords. I hope that landlords across York will see the benefits of supporting students through the measures we suggest and take these into account when making decisions. We therefore would hope that multiple landlords would implement these measures to ensure the financial safety of their residents and future clients”.
The Council responded to the letter yesterday. In an email shared on Facebook, the Council says the following:
“You are of course raising some very important issues. The council is working flat out to try and adapt to the new situation and support the most vulnerable. I have forwarded your enquiries to senior officers and other members of the council’s Executive for a full response.
In the meantime students suffering hardship can apply to hardship funds in the same way as other residents”.
Last week, the Council introduced a £1.25m hardship fund for people in York who have been financially affected by COVID-19. There isn’t currently a student specific fund, but students are welcome to apply for the fund nonetheless. It is currently unknown how many people the City of York Council expects to help with this fund