As university expansion drives up demand for student housing, the UK is facing a severe shortage of purpose-built accommodations.
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With over two million students enrolled in higher education, the pressure on existing housing stock is intense. In response, universities are building more and more student accommodation – but it’s not keeping pace with demand.
The result is that students are being forced to look further afield for housing, often living in overcrowded and unsuitable conditions. This is having a detrimental effect on their studies and well-being.
The government needs to address the shortage of purpose-built student accommodation. It should work with universities and developers to ensure enough high-quality homes are built to meet demand. And it should do more to regulate the privately rented sector so that students can be sure of finding safe, decent and affordable homes. Without these measures, the UK’s student housing crisis will only worsen.
According to a recent report by the National Union of Students (NUS), the number of students in the UK who are struggling to find housing has risen sharply in recent years. In 2016, almost one in four (23%) students said they had been homeless during their studies. This is up from just 8% in 2013.
The NUS’s research also found that the cost of rent is a major barrier to accessing housing. Two-thirds of students say they are worried about affording their rent, and one in five say they have struggled to pay their rent at some point during their studies.
The situation is particularly acute in London, where rents are among the highest in the country. According to a report by the NUS, the average rent for a student in London is now £527 per month – more than double the national average of £250.
The high cost of living is forcing many students to consider leaving London altogether. In a recent survey by the Greater London Authority (GLA), one in three students said they were considering moving out of the capital because of the high cost of housing.
The shortage of purpose-built student accommodation is not just affecting those studying in London. It’s a problem that is being felt across the country.
In Manchester, for example, more than 8,000 students are reportedly on the waiting list for university accommodation. And in Bristol, students have been forced to live in converted shipping containers because of the lack of available places.
The situation will only likely worsen as the number of students enrolled in higher education continues to increase. The government’s plans to expand university places by 30% over the next decade will put even more pressure on the already strained student housing market.
Universities are responding to the demand for accommodation by building more purpose-built student housing. According to a recent report by Savills, universities in the UK are planning to build almost 200,000 new student homes.
But more is needed to meet the growing demand. Savills estimates that an additional 100,000 new student homes will be required by 2025 to keep up with projected growth in student numbers.
The government needs to address the shortage of purpose-built student accommodation. It should work with universities and developers to ensure enough high-quality homes are built to meet demand. And it should do more to regulate the privately rented sector so that students can be sure of finding safe, decent and affordable housing. Without these measures, the UK’s student housing crisis will only worsen.
What do you think of the current state of student housing in the UK? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This is a guest post by James Dening, a freelance journalist who writes about education and social issues.
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