UK student accommodation reaches ‘crisis point’ as bad as 1970s, charity warns | Student housing

Student accommodation is reaching a ‘crisis point’ not seen since the 1970s, when students slept in gyms 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 shared rooms for the 2022 and 2023 academic years.

Experts say there are a growing number of students experiencing periods of hidden homelessness or accepting unsuitable accommodation out of desperation. Students say they have been forced to couch-surf with friends, live with their parents some distance away or accept unsuitable rooms such as those without windows.

“You’re starting to see a shortage of student accommodation at the majority of universities – not just the ones you’ve heard of,” said Martin Blakey, chief executive of student accommodation charity Unipol.

“The reason for this is that purpose-built student residences have stopped expanding as much as they used to, and we don’t think that will change. At the same time, we believe there is a significant decrease in shared homes – [landlords] return to leasing to professionals or leave the market.

This has been compounded by universities managing less of their own housing in favor of partnerships with private providers, which have been crippled by the wider investment freeze and hostile planning regimes in some cities, he said. he declares.

Planning regulations had made it more difficult to subdivide private homes, and Scotland now required owners to apply for multiple occupancy (HMO) house licenses, he added.

Data compiled by accommodation portal StuRents, which says it accounts for 70% of student beds in the UK, suggests there is a shortfall of 207,000 student beds and 19 towns where there are has more than 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, the rapid expansion of universities and the return of international students amid the easing of the Covid pandemic. He predicted that the situation would deteriorate in January when new recruitment arrives, and then again in September 2023, which should be another record cycle of university recruitment.

Chloe Field, National Union of Students (NUS) vice president for higher education, said the ‘unprecedented’ housing shortage was ‘putting students’ college experience at risk and forcing them to make decisions difficult”. “Without urgent action to increase the supply of affordable housing, it is inevitable that dropouts and student homelessness will increase,” she said.

In Glasgow, students pleaded with their university not to halt recruitment after those without accommodation were told not to enroll in their courses; Durham students lined up overnight to book accommodation for next year; Bristol students were housed in Newport, Manchester students in Liverpool, and York students in Hull; and students from Northern Ireland set up their first housing cooperative.

Michael Rainsford, co-founder of StuRents, said that while different cities are announcing student rooms for fall 2023 at different times, “we’re seeing the first searches ever by students scrambling to find accommodation.” . In Durham, nearly all of the properties available for fall 2023 were let by the end of October.

Rainsford said strong competition for homes has driven prices up, with an average increase of around 10% and up to 20% in some cities, compared to last year. Students are also grappling with affordability – the NUS estimates that a third of all housing costs more than the average maintenance loan.

Last year, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute warned that student homelessness would increase due to the cost of living crisis, while a survey of 3,000 students by Student Beans in October suggested that one in 10 people had experienced moving back to their parents or experiencing examples of homelessness such as couch-surfing, or living in Airbnbs, hotels or in their cars.

The universities of Portsmouth and East London have confirmed that there have been higher numbers of homeless students this year.

Universities are urged to collect and publish more data on where their students live and provide better information to prospective students.
Blakey pointed to the example of Nottingham as a potential solution: the local authority has worked with the city’s two universities on a student life strategy to determine how much accommodation is needed and available.

He added that universities could “pick up their pockets and re-develop some of their own housing” because “when there is a shortage of housing, the hardest hit people are those who are last in line. waiting”.

A spokesperson for Universities UK said ‘universities have worked closely with students and the housing sector to ensure students find suitable accommodation’ this year but was aware of the issues , for which she was exploring possible solutions.

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