Student housing has been one of the most resilient residential property classes, so investors in this sector are well placed amid the turmoil of the wider market. However, as highlighted by your piece ‘Easing the university squeeze’, there are challenges ahead that need to be addressed.
The lack of student housing is contributing to an exacerbated cost-of-living crisis for students. A staggering 91% of students are worried by the cost-of-living crisis and 77% say it has affected their studies, according to research by Universities UK. This is not surprising. Student maintenance loans for the 2022-23 academic year rose only 2.3% year on year, compared with inflation of 10.1%.
The property industry has done a lot to help residents through the pandemic and up to today. It can do a lot to support residents – and, as part of that, we want to see more government support for the sector.
In the short term, students need access to the additional support being given to low-income households. Few students are council tax payers, so would have missed out on council tax rebates given earlier in the year. Other energy support measures have gone to low-income households, but excluded students.
In the longer term, the UK needs a nationwide, government-funded programme to support retrofitting to cut energy costs and make homes more environmentally friendly. The government has set out its timeline for improving EPC regulations, and should work hand in hand (and cash in hand) with landlords to deliver those objectives for everyone’s benefit.
The introduction of the Eco+ scheme is a step in the right direction; we want to see it expanded so that students benefit and their landlords’ investments remain economical.
Helping landlords to provide more and better student accommodation is a win-win, lowering energy bills while cutting carbon emissions. Student housing is not only an excellent investment for landlords, with no shortage in demand from tenants with reliable incomes; it’s also hugely important in providing good homes. Helping students in the short term is important to ease the pressure from the cost-of-living crisis, but investing in student housing in the long term is the right thing to do for students, landlords and the economy.
Phil Greaves, director and co-founder, UniHomes