University of Manchester student rent campaign goes national

University rent strikers are pushing ahead with their campaign, with students from 56 UK universities now involved.

MM Spoke to Ve Virgo, an organiser at the University of Manchester, who was involved in the tower occupation, rent strike and protests.

Students at the university were one of the first in the country to achieve success back in December, which inspired many other students nationwide to join the movement.

Virgo explained: “We gave them hope that direct action does work and that setting up their own strikes would be effective.”

The University of Manchester’s most recent offer – to cancel rent for those no longer living in halls -has not satisfied student-tenants.

There are students who fall through the gaps for many reasons: some do not have adequate resources to study from their home, some do not have a home to return to, and others who faced bigotry or violence at home feel unsafe returning.

When asked about this decision, Virgo said: “That’s not enough. To just refund people living at home would be a very classist policy.

“To only refund or give financial compensation to those who are lucky enough to have homes they can live in, is [also] a homophobic and transphobic policy.”

Virgo then explained the rent strikers’ involvement in advocacy for BLM and LGBT+ issues, and consultations with disability groups fighting for accessible housing: “We care about all students and we want justice for all students.”

It’s not just about students, either. The rent strikers also joined the fight for better PPE, working conditions, pay and support for university staff.

Virgo said: “Being multi issue has strengthened us.

Unions have sent letters of support. Its staff and students united against management who are exploiting us both.”

They added: “Affordable housing of a decent standard at a reasonable price is an issue across the whole country, that affects so many people.

“It’s just a basic human right – so I think anyone who cares about human rights and people more generally should care about housing as an issue.

“We are obviously one example right now of people who are being exploited and are taking a stand against that.”

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