Following the reveal of the poor housing conditions at Evelyn Gardens earlier last year, another Hall of Residence has been found guilty of offering sub-par accommodation, after numerous reports were brought to felix’s attention.
This time, students at Alban Hall have had to consistently deal with plumbing, electrical, and, possibly the worst of all, internet connectivity issues since the very beginning of their accommodation. But the recent, rapid deterioration of conditions, including flooding in the laundry facilities, a three day long internet cut and reported serving of expired food (Alban is a catered Hall), has made many disgruntled residents speak out. “It’s an absolute dangerous shit show”, says Joseph O’Connell-Danes a first year chemist and unlucky resident of the decrepit Hall, “there is fast growing contempt for the halls and increasing chatter in about rent reductions being deserved.”
Last Monday, in a desperate attempt to appease internet deprived students, the management at Heythrop (the University of London college in which Alban is situated) left the computer suite open to residents overnight. A Facebook post by one of the wardens read “Heythrop are keeping the computing suite open in the main building tonight... They’ve asked us to pass on their apologies – they had hoped to have it fixed today.”
But these are just extreme examples in a string of persisting issues. The plights of Alban’s residents include but are not limited to: days without internet, laundry machines in need of repair, clogged drains leading to leaks, flooding, and mould; plug sockets routinely losing power, leading to fridges without power and the subsequent rotting of groceries.
“When we first moved in to Alban Hall it was obvious that everything was a bit run down but that was the price to pay for a great location and being catered” says Ella Vialle-Sole, another chemistry undergrad. Alban Hall is located on High Street Kensington, a step away from the tube and a convenient ten minute walk from the South Kensington Campus.
“Over time it has become clear that the problems which at first were minor have now become a part of our daily lives and are increasingly more dangerous. In the past week alone the washing machines flooded, the internet was down for three days and I have been served gone off food. Aside from these temporary annoyances, there are many long term issues which repeatedly get patched up only to go wrong again further down the line, but this time ten times worse. Sinks and showers do not drain properly the consequences of which at first were floods, then mould growing on the walls (which is not the best when you are asthmatic), and finally the leaking water filled all the lights in the bathrooms and stopped them from working. It was lucky no one got electrocuted”
The poor living conditions have led to the creation of a Facebook page dedicated to memes trying to make light of the situation. Some students however are considering serious action involving withholding rent like their counterparts have been doing at UCL.
Despite the frustration of Alban Hall residents, there is no animosity against the wardens “I think the wardens and sub-wardens are doing their best to help students out. In fact, I have no ill feelings towards the people running the hall. However, I hope from the bottom of my heart that my 225 quid per week in rent might finally be put to better use,” says May Kyaw a first year biochemist. Imperial students pay, approximately £7,700 a year for their accommodation at Alban Hall. Their Heythrop equivalents pay £6,400.
In response a College spokesperson said “We are aware that issues were raised with wardens in Alban Hall earlier this term, and apologise to students affected. We understand that the issues were discussed at a Hall Committee and quickly addressed. We are concerned to hear that felix have received reports of ongoing problems.
“We take any reports of problems with accommodation very seriously and encourage students to come forward with any issues if the arise. In Alban Hall, students should contact the Hall management staff (located in the Heythrop College Accommodation Office) directly with reports of any problems.”
The lack of action is thought to be a result of Heythrop College’s uncertain future. Heythrop, which specialises in philosophy and theology, is currently set to be closing down in 2018, after failed attempts to form a partnership with the University of Roehampton.
Earlier last year, it was revealed by the Evening Standard that agent CBRE was hired earlier last year by Jesuits in Britain, freeholders of the property, to sell the prime plot of Kensington estate. A Jesuits in Britain spokesperson told the Evening Standard that the move to sell was at least partially motivated by financial loses. The bidding was expected to start at at least £100 million.
“Heythrop College incurs a significant financial deficit each year. The financial reality is that as a small institution, within this highly competitive higher education environment and with the costly regulatory demands, it cannot continue in its current form.”
The Halls at Heythrop College will most likely be accepting new tenants for the academic year of 2017/2018. Whether there are plans to refurbish the estate before it’s sold off is unclear. But based on the current situation we think it’s unlikely.