Nottingham short of 5,500 student beds but doing all it can to avoid accommodation crisis

Nottingham’s director of planning is convinced the city can escape a student housing catastrophe

Nottingham is now short of 5,500 beds for students that the city desperately needs. The number of students needing housing at the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University increased by approximately over 30 per cent between 2016 and 2022.

It seems to be the ever pressing issue of this academic year. From Glasgow and Manchester to Bristol UWE and Durham, Nottingham has joined the ranks of a city under pressure, struggling to provide beds for its student population.

In 2015, the government removed a restriction that had limited how many students universities may admit annually.

According to Nottingham City Council, there are now 5,500 beds missing from the city. But despite the number of students arriving to study exceeding what has been called the greatest accommodation development pipeline outside of London, Nottingham’s director of planning is convinced the city can escape a student housing catastrophe.

Paul Seddon, the director of planning and regeneration at the council, said to the Local Democracy Reporting Service:“What we haven’t been able to do is make sure every additional student in Nottingham coming to study has had a bed space in a new purpose-built scheme.

“That has been our aim to at least achieve that but the growth in numbers has outstripped what has been a significant number of new accommodation schemes coming through.”

A student housing crisis like that seen in other cities such as Durham has been avoided. Nottingham hasn’t reached a point of students joining overnight queues to blindly bid on accommodation. Mr Seddon believes this to be due to a combined approach of utilising the “the best monitoring data of any city” in the country and having strong connections with both universities.

“We know the position in Nottingham better than anywhere else, which has meant that we were able to not have the crisis that other cities have had.

“I am acutely aware, as are portfolio holders and councillors in the city council, there is quite a bit of sensitivity around student accommodation, but Government make it crystal clear we have to plan, we are expected to plan, to meet student housing needs.

“If we don’t get the numbers of the purpose-built, specifically for students, right, and we don’t get it so there is good, healthy competition in terms of price, then that will translate to pushing up rents and competition for those other places that have got no planning control like two-bedroom apartments in the city.

“That’s the kind of thing we are trying to head-off across the whole of the housing market.”

There is a sizable backlog of planned student housing, including a now-delayed project at Queen’s Road and a three-story building in Faraday Road, Lenton.

According to a joint statement from the two universities, they are collaborating with the city council to “ensure Nottingham realises the many socio-economic benefits that students bring without putting pressure on the city’s housing stock”.

One example of this is having more than 10,000 beds for purpose-built student housing in the pipeline for private rental market, which is thought to be the largest construction pipeline in the UK outside of London.

The council further asserts that it has “ahead of target” additional housing for non-students with 85 residential apartments at the old petrol station site on London Road, hundreds of homes at Waterside, 106 houses at Eastglade in Top Valley, 88 houses at Denewood Crescent, Bilborough and 291 houses Padstow, Bestwood.

As a result of the collaborative work, Mr Seddon claims he is “as confident as I can be that we will avoid what has happened in some of the other cities more recently”.

However, Giles Inman of the landlord organisation EMPO worries that, as has allegedly happened in the past in Leicester, Nottingham may someday find itself with an overabundance of student housing with no room to modify their usage.

Giles said: “In terms of re-letting student homes to families, the costs of running and heating these old Victorian HMOs (House of Multiple Occupation) are astronomical, they are never going to go be re-let as family homes”.

He added: “Purpose-built is a lot more expensive than HMOs, with the cost of living crisis even students will have to start looking at what they are spending.

“Some of these blocks can charge between £150 to £160 per week. HMOs start from £60.

“Students are citizens. There are 60,000-plus in Nottingham and we need to start celebrating that fact rather than continually berating them.

“The council has no choice to put them up in blocks because they have put these planning restrictions in. Blocks have a very, very tight financial model and even with competition they will struggle to reduce rents because of the overheads.”

In a joint statement the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University said: “Investment and regeneration in Nottingham is a strong vote of confidence in a growing city with two world-class universities which continue to be a vibrant and popular choice for those who come here to live, learn and grow, supporting local jobs and services.

“Our universities and the city council are working closely together to develop a Student Living Strategy, a new strategic approach to developing mixed communities, which support the health, well-being and potential of all residents, where individuals are treated with equity, giving and receiving mutual respect for the benefit of all.

“Our strong collaborative relationships with the city and the development of our shared student living strategy will continue to balance demand to ensure that Nottingham realises the many socio-economic benefits that students bring without putting pressure on the city’s housing stock.”

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