Tens of Oxford students queued outside North Oxford Property Services overnight in order to secure accommodation for next academic year.
North Oxford Property Services released their list of student houses last Thursday morning, and by 9am there were already 60 people waiting in line, having begun to queue late the night before for houses in popular student areas Jericho, Cowley and Iffley.
James Povey described how “doors opened at 9am, but in order to ensure they were able to let their property of choice customers were left to queue up when they saw fit. This of course lead to some confusion as to what time it was best to queue with prospective letters arriving anywhere between the close of Park End and throughout the following day.”
NOPS states on its website that they “encourage you to view the properties you find appealing as soon as you can”, and the earliest students arrived on Wednesday morning, camping despite freezing temperatures.
There were some upsides for students. Povey also said: “Anybody waiting in line was given a free token for a bacon butty and coffee. Since I had only made it to NOPS this provided all the incentive I needed to stop moaning about the time I had awoke. However, the feeling may not have been mutual for the remaining flatmates who made it there for 7am. Despite the rush, similar to that of a concert ticket release, we got our house of choice and finally left the scene at about 10 a.m. rather happy with ourselves.”
Luke Miller, St Peters’ JCR President, commented that “the fact that students feel forced to queue up in November to get houses for effectively next October is a sign of how ridiculous the housing system is in Oxford, which is much worse than other university areas. The hype built up by letting agencies benefits none of us and we need to be better at resisting the pressure that they apply.”
One student described the experience of trying to find a house for the next academic year as “very, very stressful”, and stated that “it makes me want to drive a stake through each eyeball”.
Oxford City Council have claimed that the city is in the middle of a “housing crisis”, with a “lack of housing availability, choice and affordability”, estimating that between 24,000 and 32,000 new homes needing to be built before 2031 in order to meet the city’s need.
Although some disapprove of the letting agency’s methods, other students are pragmatic. Having secured next year’s accommodation, one anonymous student commented: “The thing about NOPS is that they probably are quite exploitative, but I don’t mind being exploited because ultimately I got the house that I wanted.”