Council unveils strategy for city’s student accommodation sector

Steve Lumley·13 March 2023·5 min read
Council unveils strategy for city’s student accommodation sector

A city council has unveiled a strategy for its student accommodation sector with a view to boosting purpose-built student accommodation rather than student HMOs to help accommodate a rapidly growing student population.

The move is likely to be replicated in other cities as growing student populations put pressure on the supply of accommodation.

The strategy is aimed at tackling the fast-rising number of students moving to the city and to help ‘spread out’ student accommodation to other areas.

But the council is keen to reassure student landlords that houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) will not simply disappear – though councillors are hoping that more of the student HMOs will be converted into family housing in future.

Its student population rocketed to 51,000

The strategy from Nottingham City Council comes after its student population rocketed to 51,000 students from 40,000 in 2016.

This growth has led to fewer homes being available for families as landlords turn properties into HMOs.

Now, a strategy will help improve the quality and affordability of student accommodation in Nottingham - and where it will be located.

The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University are working with the council on the plan which says there will be a focus on creating more PBSA buildings.

9,500 student beds being delivered

Nottingham will see around 9,500 student beds being delivered over the next few years to help meet the growing demand.

And Councillor Toby Neal says that a strategy would help prevent neighbourhoods from being ‘overpowered’ by one group of people.

He admits that part of the thinking is to change some of the communities in Nottingham but adds that students are an important part of the city’s life.

The council says that both universities deliver £3.8 billion to the city’s economy every year and create 25,000 jobs.

A rise in students living in HMOs

However, the strategy makes clear that a rise in students living in HMOs means there are fewer family homes available.

The strategy also offers a reason why the council believes that students will opt for PBSA rather than living in HMOs – and that’s down to the way they will be developed.

The council says that PBSA will in future look more like townhouses rather than having a building with ‘long corridors and lots of doors off them’ because they can be ‘anonymous’.

The strategy also wants to boost ‘neighbourliness’ between residents and students and both universities are also committing to investing up to £1 million in the enforcement and prevention of student anti-social behaviour this year.

Council also wants more students to remain in the city

The council also wants more students to remain in the city once they complete their studies and the proposals are now open for public consultation.

Simon Thompson, the managing director of Accommodation for Students, said: “The strategy being proposed by Nottingham City Council will annoy some student landlords because of its focus on promoting PBSA above HMOs but this situation will be replicated around the country.

“Hopefully, student landlords in Nottingham will respond to the consultation process with their thoughts on the strategy and highlight just how effective quality landlords are in delivering comfortable homes for students to enjoy at reasonable prices.”

Figures show that the number of international students heading to Wales has rocketed since 2022 by 83%. That means the nation’s intake is more than 50% higher than the average for the UK. The data comes from Enroly which highlights that universities in the South East and London have seen a 32% rise in international students enrolling between January 2022 in January this year. Among the reasons for the popularity of the universities in Wales is that the cost of living is much cheaper for food, transport and student accommodation than it is in London. Indeed, Aberystwyth University has been recognised as the UK’s most affordable university for students.

International students aren’t just heading to Wales, there has been a huge demand in Australia over the past year. And this demand has been made worse after China withdrew its restrictions on international travel in January with students heading to Australia causing a housing crisis. The Chinese government made clear that students would have to return to on-campus learning for their qualifications to be recognised. However, most universities in Australia have said that their student accommodation is already full in response to a deluge of inquiries from Chinese students desperate to return to living in on-campus accommodation to complete their studies. The report by Reuters also highlights the cost of accommodation in homes close to campus is rocketing. The report points out that demand from international students for quality student accommodation in countries around the world is growing.