A knitted banner attached to the hoardings at Shrub Place that read:”More social housing, fewer bloody students,” certainly sparked debate this week.
The woolly protest is an apparent reaction to the number of dedicated student accommodation buildings being built in the area. We’ve previously noted on this blog that there are plans for more than 900 dedicated student flats in various stages of development towards the more southern end of Leith Walk and Easter Road.
And the protest follows similar campaigns in other parts of Edinburgh, such as the Save our Southside campaign.
But the jury remains out over whether this level of student accommodation is necessarily a bad thing for the area at all.
Whilst there is undoubtedly a pressing need for more homes to be made available at social rent levels, there are also arguments in favour of dedicated student accommodation.
The Spurtle, in reaction to the same knitted protest, said: “We have no sympathy for those lazily demonising students.
“Today’s undergraduates – some state-sponsored from abroad, others working jobs and still running up considerable debts to finance their studies, all anxious about future prospects in a period of economic hardship – tend to be far more hard-working and quiet-living than their predecessors of 20 or more years ago.
“They bring energy, creativity and cosmopolitanism, and are valuable economic drivers at both citywide and local levels. In managed accommodation, they are often model neighbours.”
It has also been argued that building more dedicated student accommodation helps to reduce the need for students to share larger flats in Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) – meaning there are more traditional flats and tenements available for private let to families. The argument goes that much of the traditional animosity between the non-student and the student population in Edinburgh is linked to tensions around privately rented student HMOs and owner occupiers in tenements.
It follows, if you buy this line of reasoning, that if more students live in dedicated, managed accommodation, then these tensions should dissipate.
- You can read more in an ‘issues paper’ dedicated to the topic produced by city planners.
But that’s not to say the knitted protest didn’t get any support.
— AKA Amanda (@Holyrudegirl) December 15, 2014
Leith has always thrived on being something of a melting pot, and Leith Walk ward is already among the most densely populated areas in the UK.
Student housing is about as high-density as you can get, so it is perhaps reasonable for locals to consider whether local infrastructure – such as doctors surgeries – will be able to cope with an even greater number of residents. These are issues that the local community council has raised with planners.
For those concerned with the quality and quantity of affordable housing in Leith, you don’t need to go to the hassle of knitting a protest banner to have your say.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals that could give people in the private rented sector more security of tenure, and controlled rents. And if such proposals were to become law, it could help the many Leithers who do live in private rented accommodation.
It is open for people to respond to until the 28th of December.
And you can do it by email.
Thanks to Mary for sending in the photograph.