UK’s student housing market continues to prosper despite Brexit uncertainty

Although the withdrawal agreement entered into force on January 31, 2020, the effects of Brexit are still unclear. Experts are concerned that a no-deal will have serious repercussions on the UK’s higher education and academic research sectors, since universities will have less access to funding and find less qualified candidates for academic positions.

However, despite this complicated political climate, the UK’s student housing market doesn’t seem to show signs of stopping in the following year. 

Currently, 19% of university students in the UK are international and they contribute more than £20 billion to the country’s economy annually. After the United States, the UK attracts the most international students and experts warn that could change in the event of a no-deal Brexit. EU students, in particular, could change their minds in regards to their study plans. In a recent survey, 39% of EU students said that they are keeping their options open because a no-deal Brexit could lead to higher fees. In comparison, only 10% of non-EU international students said that Brexit does not affect their plans and they will continue to study here. 

So far, Brexit did not affect international students, whose rights to live in the UK will not change until 31 December 2020, and who can still access student finance if their courses start in the 2020/2021 academic year. Erasmus+ placements are also not affected. What will happen after that date is still up to negotiation but, on the short term, Britain continues to receive a huge influx of international students in addition to the domestic ones, and the student housing market is ready to welcome them.  

The purpose-built student accommodation sector will continue to grow in 2020 

The UK has the second-largest purpose-builtstudent accommodation sector (PBSA) after the United States. Valued at more than £50 billion, PBSA was fuelled by the rising number of students. According to a JLL study, we currently have 3 students competing for each new PBSA bed and supply isn’t expected to drop anytime soon because foreign investments keep coming in. Even after leaving the EU, the UK remains a top destination for Asian investors, who aren’t affected by the political background. In the following two years, investors are expected to contribute £8.8 billion and more than 30% of this will go into the student housing market.

Adding to students are young professionals – people aged 18-24 who have just graduated and seek employment opportunities in the same city where they studied. Since their needs and financial possibilities are similar to those of students, many of them continue living in student flats, or they share a larger house with other young professionals. 

The PBSA sector creates rooms for approximately 25,000 spots annually but full-time undergraduate numbers are expected to grow by 15% in the following ten years. Initially, most purpose-build homes were created in collaboration with universities but due to the high influx of foreign investments, we’re also seeing an increase in private developments. This has led to an increase in housing conditions, which can only bring good news to students. Previously known for their cramped living conditions, student homes are becoming more affordable, but also more modern. There is even a niche for luxury student housing that costs up to £725 a week. Catering mostly to affluent overseas students, this market offers the best living conditions to customers who don’t want to compromise on convenience and comfort. From spacious living rooms to minimalist design furniture, these rooms have elements that would have been impossible to imagine in a student house in the early 2000s. Now, however, students are coming from more diverse economic backgrounds and the market needs to adapt. 

What are the most popular student accommodation markets in the UK? 

Although one would expect to see London at the very top of the list, the capital isn’t exactly student-friendly. High rent costs, traffic, and long commute times have steered students towards the cities in the North of England or the Midlands, which have award-winning universities and lower rent costs. According to a recent analysis, these are the main student hubs that attract millions of pounds in investments each year.  

Newcastle 

Home to two prestigious universities, Newcastle attracts about 16,000 undergraduate and 5,000 postgraduate students from more than 120 countries. This has led to incredible demand in student housing and 13% of properties in the city were found to be top investments. Statistically, one in every 15 homes is a student property. There are different locations in Newcastle to satisfy every type of student, but the most popular ones remain Sandyford, Jesmond, Heaton, and Newcastle City Centre. 

Nottingham 

By the latest count, there are nearly 25,000 student beds in Nottingham and the student accommodation market will continue to thrive in 2020. With a mere 1% vacancy rate, Nottingham City Centre is occupied almost entirely by students. This has encouraged many owners to convert their properties to attract young residents and, as an economic side effect, the region has become full of student-friendly pubs, cafes, and restaurants. 

Leeds 

Another city with top investment potential, Leeds is home to more than 60,000 students. However, this is one of the most expensive student cities in the country and rent prices are getting close to the ones around London. Leeds has reported the largest growth in rental prices (50%), with the average room now costing £550 per month. 

Sheffield 

The University of Sheffield ranks in the UK’s top 5 for best overall student experience, which has turned the city into a popular student hotspot and has increased demand for purpose-built housing. According to a recent study, 70% of the 60,000 students do not have access to university accommodation, so the PBSA sector is expected to grow in the following years. 

Manchester

Manchester is an appealing destination for international students. Out of the 100,000 students who choose to enrol in one of the five top universities in the Greater Manchester area, more than 33,000 are international and, to keep up with the increasing housing demand, many developers are knocking down old buildings in the city centre to create special student accommodation. As a result, Manchester is in the midst of a demographic shift where the city centre is populated mostly by students, while families and working couples are relocating to the quiet outskirts. 

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