The Growth in Student accommodation and Affordable Housing

This article is part of a series based around our Plan for Affordable Housing which you can read more about here.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

Between 2011/12 and 2015/16 planning permission was granted for over 2,500 units of new purpose build student accommodation across 17 developments, mainly in the vicinity of the city centre. The previous Portsmouth Plan granted an exemption to student accommodation, so developers weren’t required to contribute towards the provision of affordable housing, as they would if it were a standard residential development.

Other local authorities do require student accommodation developers to contribute towards the housing needs of the local community. For example, in 2011 the London Borough of Southwark chose to extend its affordable housing planning obligations to include student accommodation. Since then the borough has secured significant additional affordable homes as a result.

If student accommodation developers had been required to provide affordable housing in line with obligations on residential sites, then over 750 extra units of affordable housing could have been provided in Portsmouth since 2011. One option could be for a certain percentage of rooms in new halls to be allocated to local young people who have become homeless but wish to continue their studies.

Table 6: student accommodation developments granted planning permission

2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Total
Number of new student accommodation builds granted planning permission 4 1 1 5 6 17
Total units of student accommodation granted planning permission 112 42 10 1091 1249 2504

Source: data provided by PCC Planning Policy department

The council has told residents the new student accommodation will benefit local people in housing need as capacity is freed up in the private rented sector through former student houses becoming vacant, however there is no clear evidence this will be the case. In fact there are some indications the increase in purpose built student accommodation is actually putting upward pressure on rents in the private residential sector, potentially worsening the situation for those in housing need.

Another problem which seems to have been overlooked so far in discussions on this issue is that of the opportunity cost of almost all the prime development sites in the city centre being used for student accommodation. If these sites were not utilised solely for student accommodation there would be a variety of alternative uses possible, including affordable housing.

We believe developers of purpose build student accommodation should be required to contribute towards the provision of affordable housing in line with sites containing other types of residential accommodation.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.