As a West Midlands council takes drastic measures to curb the number of homes taken by students, Andy Lloyd, regional investment executive at property management specialist Premier Places, urges other authorities not to follow suit.
The growth in demand for degrees and university-backed qualifications has brought a big rise in the number of students – and they need somewhere to live.
But that has turned out to be a problem for a few councils here in the West Midlands who find themselves torn between wanting to drive students into their cities and the shortage of housing.
And having spoken and exchanged messages with many landlords across the West Midlands and beyond in recent weeks, it’s clear they are taking a glance south to the drastic solution unfolding in Worcester.
From July, Worcester City Council is bringing in a blanket ban on converting accommodation into ‘houses of multiple occupancy’ (HMOs). Put simply, it will mean landlords will need planning permission for an HMO.
And what’s worse, the council will turn them down if more than 10 per cent of homes in a 100-metre radius, essentially the surrounding streets, are already HMOs.
In theory, this rule is there to stop large areas becoming student ghettoes, unoccupied for large parts of the year and means that there’s more housing for families. I think we all understand that.
But the knock-on effects could be counter-productive. And if other councils follow suit, there’s the potential for a serious problem.
Worcester, and other cities such as Wolverhamton and Coventry, are doing well out of the growth of universities and the arrival of students from all far flung corners of the globe. Not only do they bring demand for housing, they bring disposable income.
Most students are young, without families, and want to go out, have a good time and use the various services on offer. It doesn’t take a genius – make your city somewhere students can’t find a home and they’ll go elsewhere.
Similarly, landlords invest time and hard-earned money in these homes as more and more realise that students are some of the most reliable tenants for paying rent on time.
They have very high standards and want high-speed broadband, modern facilities and good public transport links. If there’s demand for these services from students, both inside and outside of the home, then landlords and the authorities provide them and everyone benefits.
The conversations I’ve been having with landlords are centered around their worries about being left out of pocket by the hard-hitting restrictions.
And that’s a problem. If they’re worried, they won’t invest. If they don’t invest, then housing supply for students dwindles. Then rents go up. Then students go elsewhere.
The last thing we’d want to see is something like this happen in places like Birmingham, Coventry or Wolverhampton, all of whom do very well out of their student populations.
Students have underpinned the economy in certain areas over recent years. They don’t deserve to be treated like second class citizens in Worcester, or indeed anywhere else.
Article Courtesy of Andy Lloyd at Premier Places