Merton students have been outraged this term by the hit of a sudden rise in rents due to a deal struck four years ago.
The JCR President, James Nation, has explained that the rents at the College increased this year by 12%. He described it as “regrettable and disappointing.”
The change was a result of a former JCR’s decision in 2005; a deal was negotiated whereby rent would be frozen for several years with no increases. Nation considered this unusual agreement “short-sighted… as you can imagine, [it] has caused frustration among the current crop of Mertonians.”
The JCR Executive has taken action to ensure the rent hike cannot reoccur, including producing a detailed rents report with recommendations for future rent discussions and advice on the considerable hardship grants available from the college.
They further gained assurances from the College that this type of rise would not happen again. The College have added a number of sections to their official handbook which state that yearly projections of rent will now be available. Nation assured students, “I’m told that rent will only increase in line with inflation for the foreseeable future.”
Nation says that the students at Merton “did not protest since most passively accepted that this had to happen.” A second-year Merton student explained, “The College didn’t really give the JCR many options as the decision was made several years ago.”
The JCR’s measures to ensure students feel supported during this period have had some success. Despite the hike, Tim Sherwin, a third year Classicist feels “perfectly happy and not bothered.”
He added, “The previous JCR committee probably did what they felt right at the time.”
Although one third year English student described the increase as a “shock,” they added, “Our College provides accommodation to students for the duration of our course, so we don’t have to live out at all, and this is not a big increase.”
Nation stressed, “We are still in the bottom third for rent costs compared to other Oxford Colleges – Mertonians do get a very good deal here and no doubt it will all turn full circle when other Colleges have to act. Who knows, we may be among the cheapest once again.”