Image Credit: Tejvan Pettinger

Sixty nine women face eviction after Oxford Uni buys shared accommodation

Image Credit: Tejvan Pettinger

Almost 70 women stand to be evicted this Christmas from shared accommodation as a result of Oxford University’s purchase of the building to serve as future graduate accommodation.

The property, which is currently Oxford’s only all-female shared housing accommodation, is being sold by Catalyst Housing Group, a charity based in London and operating across the south-east. 

Farndon Court is currently home to 69 women who have been told that they will be evicted on December 1st. In a letter explaining the eviction to the residents, Catalyst has stated that they lack sufficient funds to maintain the building, despite their pledge to build two new projects locally, in Temple Cowley and Littlemore park, and create 7000 new homes by 2020 across the region. In the former development, the majority of the flats are being rented at market sale rate, with less than half being allocated as social housing.

In the winter months earlier this year, 23 homeless deaths were reported across the UK while less than a third of rough sleepers surveyed in Oxford in August were in accommodation by October. This fear of prolonged displacement is clearly a pressing concern for the residents, one of whom recently Tweeted: “[our] home […] has been sold out from underneath our feet :(“.

The University’s purchase of Farndon Court seems in keeping with rapid property acquisition across the city. With University-sponsored property development currently occurring across the city – a visible example being Keble College’s building works along Woodstock Road – the University also plans to build at least 1 new graduate college and 1000 graduate rooms in the coming years. It is this kind of development which has driven up the price of rent in the city – as it stands, the average rent per month for a property with a single bedroom in the city is £1,800.

While, it is unclear how the University intends to address this issue, local MP Layla Moran has demonstrated her sympathy for the women’s situation, tweeting “I am on it” when asked about what she was doing to remedy the situation. 

In a statement to The Oxford Student a university spokesperson justified the decision to buy the shared accommodation, saying: “We have decided to buy Farndon Court in order to provide accommodation for 100 postgraduate students, which in turn will ease the burden on Oxford’s rental market. We have been encouraged by the proactivity of Catalyst in taking positive steps to engage with and support their residents through this process. The University continues to explore what more we can do to use our property portfolio for the benefit of the community. We will shortly be providing a local charity access to a property, for free, to run a social enterprise aimed at tackling homelessness in Oxford through fund-raising and offering training opportunities to homeless people.”

Wayne Davies, Director of Asset Management at Catalyst, told The Oxford Student: “We are committed to supporting everyone currently living at Farndon Court who needs help to find a new place to live.

 “We are providing dedicated time with our team to discuss everyone’s available options as well as offering financial help with costs, such as a deposit and first month’s rent in a new property.

 “We are processing this money as quickly as possible, often before someone moves out. We’re also offering to pay landlords directly as well as speak to them on behalf of the women to assure them any required deposit will be with them soon.

 “Almost all of the residents have already met with us for advice and support, and we are working closely with local partners to help everyone as much as possible.”

A spokesperson from Catalyst also claimed that they are not withholding money until a resident has moved out. As soon as customers give notice that they are leaving, they will arrange to pay the goodwill gesture to enable them to cover their deposit and first month’s rent. 

The article was amended to reflect Farndon Court’s status as shared accommodation, and clarify allegations about stipend payment