rent strike timeline
Pre-Spring 2015 Background
In 2015 a rent strike is launched at Campbell / Hawkridge House at UCL over poor conditions and ongoing building works in the halls.
After the campaign at Campbell / Hawkridge House breaks for the summer, activists involved in that campaign start planning with others to launch a “Cut The Rent” campaign at UCL to protest and reduce rents which had been rapidly increased and that the university was making over £16 million profit from. Plans are made, research is done and activists prepare for a big launch at the start of the new academic year in September 2015.
UCL Cut The Rent launches petition, gathers 1000 signatures and hands in all signatures printed out in a flash occupation of the vice-provost’s office.
September- December 2015
Lots of canvassing by UCL CTR.
UCL CTR hosts a big launch meeting
UCL CTR activists win the positions of Halls Accommodation Officer and External Accommodation Officer on the UCL Union council.
Campbell House East and Hawkridge House hearings, Nov 2015 former residents get compensated big bucks (just under £500,000) -- story is covered fairly extensively
UCL CTR does softer actions, including
a petition that gets 1,300 signatures (https://www.change.org/p/university-college-london-the-rent-is-too-damn-high)
Banner drop and small demo in the UCL main quad.
A “live-in” is done in the last week of term outside the provost’s office
More canvassing, decide to focus on building rent strike in January in Max Rayne, the cheapest UCL halls for a single room.
150 students go on rent strike, mostly in Max Rayne-- h u g e amounts of press coverage (highest level that UCL CTR has ever achieved). Dozens of articles written in national press about the rent strike.
CTR hosts big party in Max Rayne to coincide with the start of the rent strike -- free booze expropriating union funds
Article gets published in The Guardian online, gets 36,000 shares and 2,600 comments. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/25/london-students-refuse-to-pay-rent-and-demand-40-cut
Bloc on the Kill the Housing Bill march in central London
Initial open meeting in Max Rayne between residents/strikers, campaigners, and UCL managers (Andrew Grainger UCL Head of Estates, Duncan Palmer UCL Head of Student Accommodation). Meeting is recorded, Grainger states “it’s simply a fact of life that some students can’t afford to live in London” and “we don’t take into account lower-income students when setting rents”.
Climbing up on provost’s balcony action (round 2)
Goldsmiths, Cut the Rent campaign launches
Courtauld Institute of Art students also go on rent strike around this time
2nd March UCL CTR announces 500 more students across all UCL halls pledge to join the rent strike, after a long canvassing campaign
Announcement comes in conjunction with big 20-metre long banner drop on top of the UCL portico with flares.
President of UCL’s student media society Pi Media, Becky Pinnington, is threatened with expulsion after threatening to publish openly accessible but confidential documents after the UCL Head of Estates, Andrew Grainger, accidentally left his Outlook calendar public.
Pinnington releases the story with an exclusive in The Independent, in one of its last paper editions.
Rent Strikers are sent threatening emails, stating that if they don’t pay their rent in the next 2 weeks, they will be sent a “Notice to Quit”, and will then be given 4 weeks to pay the rent arrears before the university begins eviction proceedings.
UCL CTR calls for a national demonstration, titled “NO TO CENSORSHIP | VICTORY to MAX RAYNE RENT STRIKE!”. The demo ended up blocking off Tottenham Court Road, and culminated in the burning of an effigy of the Vice-Provost of Operations, Rex Knight, in the middle of Euston Circus at rush hour.
The notices to quit never appear, and Pinnington never gets expelled (she does get a grad job offer at The Sun though…)
Students at Roehampton University go on rent strike.
May Day Demo / Street Party hosted.
Goldsmiths rent strike launches with 300 students withholding rent.
RENT STRIKE LAUNCHES with around 1000 students withholding their rent across several UCL halls.
Hiatus for exams
Bristol, Cut the Rent launches at the University of Bristol
Negotiations with UCL management
UCL CTR threaten to hold a disruptive demonstration (/”manifestation”) at the undergraduate open day at the end of June
Negotiations end with concessions, offering the campaign:
£350,000 in an accommodation bursary for 2016/17 academic year
Pledge of £500,000 in an accommodation bursary for 2017/18 academic year
Waiving of £25 late payment fine
A rent freeze on 1/3 of rooms for the 2016/17 academic year
New NUS leadership (Malia Bouattia) declared support for the spread of rent strikes over the country. UCL CTR appears at NUS student press conference.
Rent Strike, the national network of Cut the Rent groups, launches.
Rent Strike hosts the Rent Strike Weekender, with 160+ attendees from 25 different campuses. The event gets attention from national mainstream media.
Rent Strike announces plans to spread rent strikes over the country.
Rent Strike joint action with Radical Housing Network around MIPIM (property developers’ fair)
UCL-CTR relaunches for the new academic year
Rent Strike bloc party at NUS Education march
Handing Petition to head of UCL accommodation Duncan Palmer + confrontational meeting
Bristol CTR demo at student letting agency digs
Clash of the demos at UCL (anti-TEF and UCL CTR)
Rent strike launches with 150-200 people
UCL-CTR travels to Bristol to help drum up support for a rent strike
Bristol CTR host rent strike launch party
UCL-CTR Demo in Main Quad using spray chalk, smoke grenades and tents.
Bristol CTR hold rally on campus
University of Bristol students go on rent strike with about 150 students witholding rent
Students sent emails in the first week of exams threatening to sell debt to third-party debt collector.
Negotiations start with UCL management.
After weeks of negotiations, lots of wrist slapping, google docs, and cordial discourse, UCL-CTR manage to settle a deal with UCL management:
£600,000 in accommodation bursary (with amended criteria) for academic year 2017/18
£600,000 towards a rent cut for the academic year 2018/19
Rent freeze across 1,224 rooms, approximately equal to £258,000
Waiving the £25 late payment fee, deposit halved to £250
Management commit to sign a charter, with a view to bettering overall student welfare in halls (incl. working on mental health issues) and communicating UCL’s duty of care to students.
Surrey Cut The Rent and Cambridge Cut The Rent both launch their campaigns.
UCL CTR relaunch their campaign for the new academic year.
UCL CTR activists win both the Halls Accommodation Officer and External Accommodation Officer positions on the Students’ Union UCL council.
Over seven campuses and a hundred students present at the second ever “Rent Strike Bloc” at the National Free Education Demo.
Surrey CTR hosts a workshop with a UCL CTR activist called “Cutting The Rent // How To Win”
The Cambridge CTR campaign sees a number of victories after a banner drop stunt and handing in a petition with hundreds of signatures. The victories include:
A rent refund for a vulnerable student Newham College
An increase in the number of “value bracket” rooms at Robinson College
A new £50 food credit at Robinson College
A below-inflation cap on rent increases at Robinson College
UCL CTR come out of negotiations with UCL management with an additional £275,000 in rent freezes and cuts added onto their original £600,000 win from 2017, with 14% of the most affordable halls’ rooms remaining frozen and rents at Max Rayne and Ifor Evans Halls being cut by 4% for the year 2018/19.
Cambridge CTR wins a below-inflation cap on rent and a waiver of the “kitchen fixed charge” for the next two years at Magdalene College.
£100,000 accommodation hardship fund won by UCL CTR is officially opened.
Ex-Goldsmiths CTR activist Eva Crossan Jory is elected as NUS VP for Welfare on a platform of spreading rent strikes around the country.
60+ person rent strike is launched at Max Rayne and Ifor Evans Halls at UCL over poor conditions and high rents. The demands of the rent strike are:
Compensation equivalent to six weeks worth of rent for all the halls’ residents
The addressing of accommodation-related complaints while students are still living in the affected halls.
Guarantee that Max Rayne and Ifor Evans halls will not be demolished until an affordable alternative is built in its place.
Cambridge CTR win a waiver of the “kitchen fixed charge” at Newham College, making their total wins of the year now worth over £50,000
Rent strike at UCL ends as students move out of the halls, with a formal deal yet to be made with UCL management. However, verbal promises have been made to not demolish Max Rayne and Ifor Evans Halls and the campaign for compensation continues.
UCL CTR stages a hard picket at the UCL accommodation office, during which the police are called by the university and one student is assaulted by a member of staff. The head of accommodation then offers the campaign another meeting to discuss compensation for Max Rayne and Ifor Evans residents due to the action.
A national Rent Strike meeting is held in London, with over ten campuses in attendance.
UCL, Surrey and Cambridge CTR all relaunch their campaigns for the new academic year.
Bristol Cut The Rent relaunches its campaign after a year’s break.
Liverpool Cut The Rent campaign launches.
A UCL CTR activist again wins the role of UCL Accommodation Officer on the Students’ Union UCL council.
Sheffield and KCL Cut The Rent launch their campaigns.