Once upon a time, students lived in the cheapest accommodation they could get, which meant the lowest-quality housing on the market. Crumbling halls of residence and cramped, neglected shared houses were considered the typical habitat of young people at university.
Now, however, things have most definitely changed and are continuing to shift in favour of quality. Newly-constructed halls of residence offer much higher living standards than their older counterparts. Most prominently, though, private developers are building more and more purpose-built student housing complexes, and these are becoming more and more popular with the modern student.
On the face of it, these purpose-built student developments are very similar to university-owned halls. Both take the form of larger developments containing multiple, small student units or “pods.” However, this kind of student property is privately-owned, and tends to offer a higher standard of living than even the newest breed of halls. They often offer more space and a wider range of facilities than most university-owned housing options. Those facilities which are shared with other students are less likely to be basics such as kitchen and bathroom, and more likely to be things like on-site gyms and entertainment rooms. They also offer more privacy and often more up-to-date facilities and fittings than houses in multiple occupation, which have traditionally been the primary form of living space for students after their first year of study.
It is not just the case that providers of student accommodation are starting to offer higher-quality living options, but also that students are increasingly demanding more from their accommodation. More often, they are perfectly willing to pay extra in order to secure the standards of living they desire. International students especially tend to fit this profile, and they represent an increasing number of those studying in the UK, but domestic students are also increasingly raising their standards when it comes to finding places to live.
As a result, high-quality and privately-owned student accommodation has also experienced a massive rise as an investment market. In the past, student property was very much on the edges of the property investment world. It was typified, in popular image at least, by landlords renting out dilapidated family homes by the bedroom to students with low standards. However, the increase in demand for purpose-built student property along with rising student numbers have created a more attractive investment market. Student landlords can now pick up a pod which is high-quality and low-maintenance, yet affordable thanks to its small size, with the expectation of strong and reliable yields. As such, 2015 saw £5.8 billion invested in the student sector according to Savills. This money came from both individuals and institutions, and included foreign as well as domestic investment.
These trends are very widespread. High demand, lack of supply and new developments aiming to help solve this imbalance can be seen in most of the UK’s university towns. With student numbers rising, increasing numbers of international students coming to the UK, and a continuing trend of higher standards, it is likely that these higher-quality student properties will continue on the rise over the course of at least the next few years.