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Premium Student Halls Take Covid Hit


It was no surprise when the Serviced Accommodation and Holiday Let sectors bombed during lockdown, but local landlords have been waiting with bated breath to see who suffered in the wider market - especially those of us who are student landlords.

Now we know the answer, it was the top end of the independent student halls market,  with the Registry in St Michaels Rd and the old library in Elm Grove both filing for change of use from student halls to interim accommodation for the homeless.

What Happened 

With student numbers ever growing and cheaply built student halls going up at a pace and being rented out at astronomical rates, it was no surprise that a number of smaller developers jumped in with developments such as these.  The Registry (formerly a registry office and then a pub) was typical - on paper it must have looked a 'no brainer' to the developers - perfect location, no neighbours, potential for 40+ rooms and a market willing to pay up to £800 per month for a room.

At the time, the University argued that the market for premium rooms was already saturated and what Portsmouth needed, if anything, was more halls rooms that would compete with the many small HMO's in the city which rented for less than half that price.

On completion, we remember the Registry struggled to get a licence as although it met all the Planning rules, the developers had not realised how onerous Portsmouth's space standards were - but once they rejigged the accommodation in order to get the licence, they must have thought they had built a real life cash machine. 

In a growing market, there is always enough 'last minute' / just out of clearing / did not organise anything students who do not realise that probably half of their student debt is going to be accumulated in the form of rental payments and premium rooms are not necessarily better - location may be good, but the rabbit hutch bedrooms and the 2am fire alarm pranks look expensive compared to a nice large and quiet room in a local house.

However, this year, the market dried up - the last minute rush did not appear and the number of overseas students dropped significantly. And unfortunately for the premium private halls, this was exactly their sweet spot in the local property market.

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