Managing Director of leading student accommodation website, accommodationforstudents.com (AFS), has criticised proposed plans to enforce a 10 per cent Student Housing Cap. He says it is not the answer on new student houses across Worcester, saying developing key areas and relaxing planning permission would be of greater benefit.
In a bid to stop so called ‘student ghettoes’ springing up in parts of Worcester, the city council plans to enforce rules preventing landlords from converting properties into HMOs (houses of multiple occupation) if more than 10 per cent of homes within a 100-metre radius have the same status. In addition, they would also prohibit any more than two HMOs being established alongside one another.
Arguing that students provide a major income source for towns and cities and that displacing them would reduce the university experience, potentially discouraging students from the area, Simon Thompson, Managing Director of accommodationforstudents.com says “It is a well known fact that students like to be among other students. For many, it is the first time they have lived independently away from home and so having others close by gives them a sense of safety and security.”
In a recent survey carried out by AFS and sent to 150,000 students, the most important factor for 58% of respondents when choosing accommodation was proximity to University, and this was subject to little regional variance. The crackdown would prevent any more student homes being introduced to parts of St John’s, such as the city’s St Clement ward.
Thompson continues “The stereotypical image of students has changed. Students now take on more debt than ever before in order to go to university, are more conscious in terms of choosing to go to university, and therefore work hard during their time there. They are not all out partying and making lots of noise every night! In order to study they need housing, and travelling long distances to university is more costly and not feasible for many.”
While capping may work in terms of spreading more students across the city, AFS says it would be better if the council thought about developing key areas of the city and making it more attractive for students to live there rather than imposing restrictions.
Several universities that AFS work closely with, including Exeter, have built further purpose built accommodation to increase their housing provision to students. It provides an additional income source to the university and helps to solve these problems.
“Another option is to give planning permission to property developers (landlords/private halls) close to the university campus and try to develop a greater student community around campus. I would urge the council to consider further options which would support that of both the student population as well as local residents, before imposing such regulations” concludes Thompson.