Since the start of the academic year, students at universities across the UK have complained of fierce competition for rooms in flatshares for the 2022 and 2023 academic years
Student housing is reaching a ‘crisis point’ not seen since the 1970s, when students slept in sports halls and their cars, and is set to worsen in the new year, a charity has warned.
Since the start of the academic year, students at universities across the UK have complained of fierce competition for rooms in flatshares for the 2022 and 2023 academic years.
Experts say there are growing numbers of students experiencing periods of hidden homelessness or accepting unsuitable housing out of desperation. Students say they have been forced to couch-surf with friends, live with parents some distance away or accept unsuitable rooms such as those without windows.
You’re beginning to see student housing moving into shortage across the majority of universities – not just the ones you read about, said Martin Blakey, the chief executive of the student housing charity Unipol.
The reason is that purpose-built student accommodation has stopped expanding to the extent it was, and we don’t think that’s going to change. At the same time we think there’s a significant decrease in shared houses – (landlords) are moving back to renting to professionals or leaving the market, he said.
This had been compounded by universities running less of their own accommodation in favour of partnerships with private providers, which were hamstrung by the wider investment freeze and hostile planning regimes in some cities, he said.
Planning regulations had made it more difficult for private houses to be subdivided, and Scotland now required landlords to apply for house in multiple occupation (HMO) licences, he added.
Data compiled by the StuRents accommodation portal, which says it represents 70% of student beds in the UK, suggests there is a shortfall of 207,000 student beds, and 19 towns and cities where there is more than a 10% undersupply of beds, ranging from 28% in Preston and 25% in Bristol to 10% in Birmingham and Swansea.
Blakey said the shortage was acute this year due to several factors, including growing demand for rentals in cities, rapidly expanding universities and international students returning amid the easing of the Covid pandemic. He predicted the situation would deteriorate in January when a new intake arrived, and again in September 2023, which is expected to be another record university recruitment round.