Student accommodation shortage sees 3 students chasing each bed

Steve Lumley·14 November 2022·5 min read
Student accommodation shortage sees 3 students chasing each bed

The shortage of student accommodation is now so severe that 3.1 students are chasing each bed, one property developer says.

The research from Stripe Property Group highlights an 'under-stocked and overwhelmed' student housing sector - and there is not enough purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).

Student numbers are also 8% higher than they were before the Covid lockdown with nearly 2.2 million students.

But there are just 697,734 student beds available, though numbers are increasing and are 6% higher than pre-pandemic.

3.1 students for every bed

That means there are 3.1 students for every bed and that's up from three students two years ago.

The issues facing the student housing sector are, Stripe says, 'abundantly clear' and students are already signing up for student houses next year to guarantee they will have a home.

Research reveals that nearly 20% of all student beds have been signed up in 15 university cities for next year.

The highest student demand for accommodation is in Brighton with 48% of student houses being snapped up already.

'Chronic shortage of student homes to rent'

Simon Thompson, the managing director of Accommodation for Students, said: "There's no doubt that there is a chronic shortage of student homes to rent but the entire sector, not just PBSA, needs to be cultivated and encouraged to provide quality homes.

"Most student homes are of a high standard and student landlords enjoy good yields and relations with their tenants.

"With student numbers rising, we need more quality student homes but with the prospect of periodic tenancies being brought in means we will see landlords leave the sector and make the situation worse."

One student housing expert is predicting that the structural undersupply of student homes will become the norm unless drastic action is taking. That’s the warning from the director of engagement at the University Partnerships Programme, Jon Wakeford, in a Financial Times investigation. Other experts also told the newspaper [ Paywall ] that the expansion of universities in the UK has come at the same time as a student housing shortage - and hundreds of students are still struggling to find somewhere to live. Also, rising rents are making it more difficult for undergraduates to live close to universities which could undermine the growth of the country’s higher education sector.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has investigated a potential student accommodation merger between Student Roost and GIC and Greystar and found that it could lead to a worse deal for students in Birmingham. The authority says that students could struggle with lower quality housing and higher rents because the merged organisation would have ‘a significant combined presence’. The CMA said that while such a merger would not attract their attention in other university cities, in Birmingham they fear that there is not enough competition between accommodation providers, and this would be to the detriment of students. All three firms accept that the acquisition could lead to competition worries and they are offering remedies to address them.

The struggle to find student accommodation has been highlighted recently with students queueing overnight in Durham to secure rental accommodation for the 2023/24 academic year. News reports reveal that hundreds of students waited outside various letting agents when most of the student accommodation becomes available on the same day. Apparently, students could be seen signing their tenancy agreements on shop windows and groups of six students were signing up for seven-bedroom houses - just to be sure they could have somewhere to live. The situation has been called ‘absolutely ludicrous’ by local MP Mary Foy. The University of Durham says the situation is receiving ‘urgent attention’ but they had anticipated pressure on the city’s private rental sector. The president of Durham Students’ Union, Joe McGary, said that students are facing a housing crisis and the availability and cost of houses in the city means that students risk not finding somewhere affordable to live.

The University of Bristol has revealed that it is funding up to £1 million to help students struggling in the cost-of-living crisis. The package includes help with the cost of IT, access to warm spaces and cheap hot meals. The funding is available throughout the year to all students. The move follows an announcement made last week by Leeds Beckett University to help its students.