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With the greatly anticipated Freshers’ Week now a distant, if not somewhat blurry, memory, first years will now be settling into their new homes for the coming year. You would be right in thinking that the growing mound of “further reading” on your Moodle page and the pasta sauce-encrusted bowls littering the kitchen would be the finishing touch to the university to-do list – that is until the accommodation talks begin. These talks will be running from Wednesday, Week 4 to Thursday, Week 5 with a different college for each day, the aim being to give first years all the information they need about living on or off campus next year. Let the inevitable panic ensue. But there are a few myths about off campus accommodation that the University should not be spouting.
The first myth is the fear that all the “good houses” will run out. With statistics showing that the number of student houses in the private sector has doubled over the past seven years, quantity has certainly increased in terms of what’s available off campus. Although affected less by this than some of the bigger UK cities, Lancaster still has a lot to offer. The stable intake numbers also mean that there is more supply than demand. Those who do hastily purchase the first house they see will be forfeiting more suitable houses they could have found later on, so don’t rush the process.
Furthermore, as the University’s reputation is growing, what with its various university league table standings creeping around the top 15, student expectations of accommodation are also going up. The University’s own on-campus accommodation has now won five awards for the last five years from the National Student Housing Survey for Best University Halls. In response to this, landlords are endeavouring to improve their services, meaning the quality is increasing with the quantity. Lancaster University will also be launching its own new Approved Homes Scheme, which will be making sure properties are up to a certain standard and managed in an appropriate manner.
Secondly, don’t let anyone convince you that there aren’t many agencies to choose from. In Lancaster there are many housing agencies, including LUSU Living, Yellow Door Lets, Student Housing Lancaster and City Block, and each will have a good quality house or flat for every group of students. Whilst LUSU Living will launch its new webpage for 2015/16 houses shortly after the talks, Yellow Door Lets and Student Housing Lancaster already have some to peruse online. A good tip is make sure you have a look around a couple of houses and preferably with at least two different providers, so you can have a good grasp of the different standards on offer. Remember, lettings agencies are not out to con students, but to give advice on finding a house that’s suitable and in your price range.
The third myth is that comparing the houses themselves is tough. No one is being asked to visit ten different houses over the course of the next ten weeks, but do keep an eye out on the internet for what’s on offer. Key pieces of information include things like deposit amounts, whether the rent to pay per week includes gas, electricity and water bills, and what the lease length is. Location should be carefully considered – for example, houses that will be a little more on the expensive side will be in the city centre or by the bus station, so steer clear of these areas to take the pressure off your student bank account.
Lastly, just because you’re told to consider your housemates last doesn’t mean they are the least important. The average number of people to a house is four to six, but there are also plenty of houses for three and seven. If you were hoping to take your entire block over, houses on the same street can sometimes be arranged, or you can move into apartment blocks. Think very carefully about who you want to live with – that guy in the flat next door might be hilarious spilling his drinks around the entirety of Sugar, but in your living room at three in the morning? Not so fun.
The whispers about second year accommodation seem, to me, a little premature and will undoubtedly trigger alarm. The talks may not do much to ease this, but they will prevent the foreseeable shock that will reverberate around the campus when second-year accommodation becomes a crucial topic. So save your panicking for now, where it’s better spent on missed deadlines and on that ketchup stain you just can’t get out of your bedroom carpet.