University towns are reaching their capacity for purpose-built student accommodation. However, demand for such housing may fall due to demographic and international visa changes.
The last two years saw record-high investments put into purpose-built student accommodation, according to the Financial Times.
The consultancy EY said that approximately 9 university towns have reached or are nearing “saturation point”. These towns include Coventry, Durham, Liverpool and Leicester.
However, EY released a study warning that proposed restrictions on student visa numbers, and new rules for EU students, will lower the demand for student accommodation.
Last year, plans to construct two new student housing blocks in South Leamington Spa were revealed. The first, on Althorpe Street, will accommodate about 187 students and the second, on Wise Street, will provide 198 rooms.
After the plan to build “Grand Union Students” on Althorpe Street was revealed in January, SoLAR (South Leamington Area Residents) submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which revealed that the number of Warwick students living in Leamington has tripled in 15 years, rising from 1,600 to 5,200. (https://leamingtonobserver.co.uk/news/call-curb-growing-student-population-leamingtons-old-town/) There are 6,200 spaces for students on Warwick’s Campus.
Concern have already been raised in response to the latest student housing proposal to be built by Robothams Architects, according to the Leamington Observer.
It stated that despite the economic boost such accommodation has on the local area, the rising student population has also created several issues such as “rowdy behaviour and end of term rubbish.”
A spokesperson for Robothams Architects quoted in the Leamington Observer: “We appreciate the reservations that local residents have towards student developments, however the irregular shape of the site combined with the electric substation location limits the potential for alternative uses.”
Robert Nash, Leamington Spa’s Town Clerk, explained that Warwick District Council’s Community Safety Partnership and the University of Warwick have started several initiatives to reduce the negative impact of rising student population.
These include the street marshals initiative and the Council’s Steering Group, which will give students the opportunity to address local issues.
The Leamington Town Council is also working on a Neighbourhood Plan which allows local people to have a say in the future of developments in Leamington. In this case, it will examine the balance between affordable housing for purchase or rent by local people, and accommodating the growing student population.
Mr Nash highlighted that students benefit the town by volunteering in the community. He stated: “As a father of a student and a recent postgraduate [from Warwick], I know that students are not necessarily the cause of all the problems associated with an expanding student population.”
In response to how Warwick can tackle the rising student population in Leamington, Peter Dunn, Director of Press and Policy, explained that the University has committed £90m towards building campus accommodation over the next 4 years. 267 new rooms will be available next year.
Regarding whether the demand for student housing in Leamington will weaken in response to proposed visa changes, Tom Frew, the University’s Senior Press and Media Relations Manager, stated: “We expect no impact as a result of visa changes, with our understanding that the proposed changes will only affect institutions below university level.”