Opinion: The boom in private student accommodation

Will it ever end? Who’s paying for all these buildings? Will Brexit make a difference?

Times have changed for students in recent years. Gone are the days when student hall rooms boasted a narrow single bed, MDF desk, cheap economy carpet and the fight for the bathroom in the morning.

Today’s 18-year-old student can look forward to a life of luxury in comparison. In the last ten years, purpose-built student accommodation has sprung up across the city, offering today’s student their own personal studio apartment with kitchen and bathroom within their room. However, this luxury student lifestyle comes at a cost. While students across the region are paying on average £114 per week, luxury studios in the city can cost as high as £300 per week.

For those who don’t mind sharing a bathroom, most student blocks also offer en-suite pods and cluster flats. That doesn’t mean they miss out on the luxuries though, with the buildings often including gyms, cinemas, cafes, rooftop gardens and some even have a concierge.

Investors, unsurprisingly, are rushing to back the sector, which is expected to reach a total value of £53 billion by the end of 2019, a 72% rise in value since 2014. However, developers are finding that it is becoming more and more difficult to find the land to build accommodation on with some saying that certain towns and cities have reached a saturation point, hence the growth of taller buildings with far greater capacity that take up very little street space.

Despite this, the purpose-built student accommodation market continues to be one of the most attractive markets in real estate for investors. Overseas buyers are bringing an influx of capital due to the value of foreign currencies against the British pound. Investors have come from mainly Russia, China, Singapore and the Middle East. The UK student accommodation sector is also resilient to concerns in regards to Brexit, just as it did during the economic downturn, which is very attractive to overseas investors.

Councils across the country are also keen for purpose-built student accommodation blocks to be built, as they free up private rental sector homes for families and boost the local economy with spending at shops and restaurants.

So who is staying in these student blocks? A lot of rooms are rented by wealthy overseas students, who regard the UK as offering high standards in education and with the emergence of English as the international language of business, education here is very appealing.

The UK now has the second-largest number of enrolled international students in the world, in some of the top UK universities, there are as many as 30% of the students that are foreign. It is these students who are willing to pay any price so that they live the UK university experience.

This increase in international, along with domestic, students means that universities need to offer a high-quality place to live, which purpose-built private accommodation does. They allow international students to shop around for accommodation before they arrive in the UK as they can view and book all of their accommodation online.

Coventry has had its cityscape changed forever due to this boom in the purpose-built student accommodation, and the trend does not look as if it is going to slow down anytime soon.