‘Too many new student flats’ is a myth!

There’s way too many new student flats in Nottingham, right? Wrong, according to new data showing that demand is still outstripping supply in the city.

It’s a common misconception that there is over-provision of purpose-built student accommodation in the city centre, with the assumption that many student flats are standing empty and that every other planning application given the go-ahead is for student flats.

However, a survey of all the main providers of new student accommodation in Nottingham has revealed a vacancy rate of just 0.5% in 2017/18 – the lowest ever recorded and representing just 105 bedspaces out of a total of 22,000. This is despite a further 1,000 new bedspaces becoming available for the academic year 2017-18 – none of which were reported to be vacant.

Since 2014 an extra 4,000 students began living in the city, with the University of Nottingham expecting a further 1,000 students for 2017/18, most of whom will live in the city. This means that despite the growth in new student flats, this is still not keeping up with the increase in student numbers. Both of Nottingham’s universities remain highly successful, popular and over-subscribed and are looking to expand. Nottingham’s universities contribute around £1.5bn to the local economy and support 19,000 jobs, with 11,000 of these jobs directly linked to the two universities

The City Council has encouraged the development of purpose-built student accommodation in the city centre because it meets the expectations of today’s students, locates them close to the amenities and transport links they want and frees up properties for use by other residents in areas that are more appealing to them than the city centre. There is evidence that as a result, there is some reversal in concentrations of students in traditional residential areas of the city, along with the redevelopment of parts of the city centre, including the conversion of disused buildings and stimulation of other development such as shops, bars and restaurants.

But even though a third of new households between 2011 and 2017 were new student flats, they still only make up 11% of city centre residential properties, with the council also frequently granting permission for traditional family housing and overseeing the development of new affordable housing. The council also requires new student accommodation schemes to be of a quality that could allow for other residential use if there was a change in student requirements in the future.

Portfolio Holder for Planning and Housing, Cllr Jane Urquhart, said: “We know there’s a perception that there’s too much student accommodation and more can’t possibly be needed. But actually, we can see we are only just keeping pace with demand. Vacancy rates in new student flats have remained consistently below 2% for the past four years, with no signs of that changing as student numbers continue to rise.

“Our position has been to encourage purpose-built student accommodation in the city centre where other residents might not choose to live but students want to be. We can see that this is reducing the concentration of students in some parts of the city and frees up housing that’s arguably better suited for families and other residents.

“Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t refuse planning permission for student accommodation without a sound policy reason – and some land may be suitable for small units and flats but not for family housing. It’s also clear that students are part of the life-blood of our city centre, with new student accommodation giving disused buildings and the areas around them a new lease of life.”

Head of estate agent FHP’s Student Living Jonty Green added: “The last ten years or so have seen an increase in students coming to the city and a huge rise in the development of purpose built student accommodation – since 2007-08 the number of bed spaces on offer has increased from 13,905 to around 22,000 – but there is no bubble that is about to burst.

“The increase in student numbers to the city has created the need for more accommodation to be built. We have astonishingly low vacancy rates. These figures truly demonstrate an appetite for this type of accommodation, breeding confidence from local and global investors, truly establishing Nottingham as a well ranking university city to rival cities Newcastle, Liverpool & Manchester.”

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