Portsmouth Student Housing Crisis
With a vast influx of new students this month, we are seeing all the signs that the lack of student housing in the city is becoming a problem.
What's going on?
Members will have noticed the significant number of student requests coming through the PDPLA website – from near zero a year ago to 20-30 per week now. Also, the rise in couples and small families looking for a single room.
We asked the University what was going on, and they said: "whilst we do not know the specific numbers of registered students yet for this academic year, we have seen an increase in accommodation demand compared to recent years. Additionally, the University's January 2023 intake is looking like it will be at a higher level than previous years - this intake will mainly be international post graduate students who mainly look to live in shared housing in the city so any landlords with vacant properties/rooms could see demand coming through early next year from this intake. We would therefore encourage any landlords with vacancies to keep their StudentPad adverts updated as we still signpost students who are looking for private rented accommodation to this site. "
Against this background of rising student numbers, we are seeing two other main trends in the city – firstly, we have too many expensive student halls. There are only a small proportion of students able or willing to spend £700-800 per month on a tiny halls room. Having realised the business model of 'build it and they will come' does not work, halls providers are trying to fill empty rooms with contractors and holiday lets (in breach of any conditions and rules put in place when they were built and making them liable for business rates which we doubt they are being billed). This is a shame – the appropriate response would be to lower rents to affordable / competitive / market levels and take a hit on profits. Sadly, PCC seem keen to approve planning requests for a change of use in the mistaken belief that student demand is not there – if they did not, the halls providers would be forced to lower rents which would be good for the city and all in it.
The second key trend is the wholesale stampede from this marketplace by landlords of small HMOs as the demands of licensing coupled with the newly updated amenity standards mean they either take a family for a similar net income or they spend thousands trying to jump through all of the licensing hoops for no extra benefit.
We are not yet in the situation of 25-30 years ago when the University had students sleeping on camp beds in the sports hall but will not be surprised to see it next September.
Whilst the problem here is obvious, Portsmouth is not unique as reported in the Guardian this month: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/dec/26/uk-student-housing-reaching-crisis-point-as-bad-as-1970s-charity-warns
PDPLA Vice Chair, Alwin Oliver, commented: "another worrying factor is that those coming are not familiar with the need for a guarantor- although supply and demand will push them that way. I am seeing a high number of family applicants (MSc overseas students) looking for accommodation anywhere in Portsmouth. Others are asking for a room near the university and a number looking for rooms for couples. It is very clear that the university have not thought through the accommodation aspect of their student recruitment policy"