By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottingham City Council says there is still a massive shortfall in the number of student homes being built in the city – with around 7,000 extra rooms needed over the next three years.
Despite a huge number of applications for purpose-built student housing in the city centre, the council says it is still not enough to deal with the demand.
Currently, even if every outstanding student accommodation application submitted to the council’s planning department was approved, there would still be a shortfall of 2,000 rooms.
The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University have both told the council they intend to increase their numbers of students.
This will leave the city needing to find an extra 5,000 rooms by 2024/25.
Both universities also said they are working closely with the council to plan how new students will find homes in future.
The increase also means places such as the former Broadmarsh shopping centre, earmarked for development, is likely to have an element of student housing as part of the final plans.
The council says the sprawl of empty shop units across the city centre will also have their upper floors converted for students “to keep the city centre vibrant” and to ensure it does not “become hollowed out.”
More land will also need to be found to the meet the demand, with the council encouraging the universities to start building on their own assets.
Cllr Linda Woodings (Lab), portfolio holder for housing and planning, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I think it is an ongoing challenge to provide enough accommodation for students. We are right on the line. The number of places at universities has rocketed.”
The local authority wants more purpose-built accommodation such as the £45 million York Place development next to the Victoria Centre. It will house 472 students.
Other developments going through planning include 692 beds at the former Royal Mail sorting office on the corner of Bath Street, 354 beds in Lower Parliament Street, 580 near Pryzm nightclub, 237 bedrooms in Traffic Street and apartments for almost 300 students on Huntingdon Street.
Nottingham Boots Island site also has plans for a 702-bed student complex.
Video: Cllr Linda Woodings explains why the council wants to see more student beds.
One developer even wants to create a 38-storey student block off Huntingdon Street and Glasshouse Street housing moer than 1,500 students.
But even with more than 7,000 purpose-built beds in the pipeline, to date it is still not enough to meet demand.
Cllr Woodings said purpose-built accommodation is the best way forward and will encourage students out of residential areas such as Lenton and the Arboretum, which have faced concerns from residents they are losing their community identities.
Asked if Nottingham’s landscape could therefore be overcast by high-rise student blocks, Cllr Woodings said: “It is not as extreme as you think it is. It won’t be a city of high-rise student properties.
“We do not have the power in the planning authority to stop student buildings nor can we control the universities on their number of placements.
“For every 100 places they offer that is 300 beds because they are here for three years. If we started refusing these applications, then we would be overturned at appeal.
“We would end up having to pay the developers’ costs for losing it as well as our own costs for fighting the case.
“But we are trying to protect family homes in the city and, in order to do that, we need purpose-built student accommodation.
“It is a much better way to house students.
“We are trying to create well-balanced communities. There are some streets in Lenton where there are seven family houses on a whole street of students and that causes tension, anti-social behaviour and ill feeling.”
Many residents in Lenton and the Arboretum argue that despite the push to put students in purpose-built accommodation – it isn’t working.
Pat Robinson, 78, has lived on Portland Road in the Arboretum for the last 39 years and is part of the Arboretum Residents’ Association. She wants the council to plan even further ahead to balance the housing needs of the area.
She said the area is “getting worse”, even with an Article 4 direction in place, which means landlords need planning permission to covert a family home into a student house (HMO) of three to six unrelated people.
She said: “There are more than 70 students opposite me. I have 30 bins which are overflowing on the street and there is lots of rats.
“It is ongoing and it is getting worse.
“We are all for purpose-built, but the purpose built is dealing with the increase in students, it is not taking them away from residential.”
“The houses have already been converted so how are they going to turn them back into family homes? No one will want to live in this area. The value of my house has gone down.
“Don’t say you are looking to build purpose built for students when you are only dealing with the increase. There is more coming in – they are not leaving this area.
“It is too late. It should have been done years ago. It is like Benidorm here. But this is my house. This is where I brought up my family.”
Kate Loewenthal, chair of Lenton Drives and Neighbours Residents Association, which represents residents living in Lenton, added: “It just seems every year more landlords are building more extensions on their properties due to the demand.
“The universities need to be reducing the number of students they take or building large swathes of their own accommodation away from residential areas. The additional purpose-built accommodation is not having an impact on Lenton or the Arboretum.”
Cllr Woodings said: “I know what they are saying – it is not working but what else would they have us do. We were turning the tide until the universities increased numbers.
“In Lenton, that is a desired area for students and landlords are not willing to give up their student properties so the only way I can address that loss of family homes is purpose built in the right location such as the Jaguar garage on Derby Road [where 700 student beds could be built].
“The Arboretum is the next popular area for students, and we do not want to lose these gorgeous buildings there. We hope we will see a culture change among students.
“They will choose to go into purpose-built accommodation rather than HMOs and landlords will not want to leave their properties empty and will convert them back to family homes.”
East Midlands Property Owners Group, based in Lenton, represents around 600 landlords, including student landlords, in the city.
Giles Inman, business development manager at EMPO, disagrees there will be that type of shift.
He said: “The universities keep increasing their numbers so the landlords we represent do not have any issues in renting their properties.
“We do keep hearing the same old story – purpose-built student accommodation will free up houses in Lenton, the Arboretum and Dunkirk.
“That is not the reality. The HMO lay-out would not be suitable for family housing. It is small gardens and no parking.
“Living in a property with a small group of friends is better than living in a high-rise.
“They have less risk when it comes to things like Covid, and they have the outdoor space. If you look at the rent for purpose built, they are 30 percent more. That is a big barrier for many students.”
Sam Monk, director of Monk Estates, is just about to open a new 91 apartment block at a former car wash site on BBC island for working professionals.
He said the city needs more accommodation for workers including Nottingham graduates once they have finished their degrees.
“There has been a sea change. Students want to return to purpose built accommodation in their second and third year. Before, it was unheard of.
“This should free up family housing. Is it really going to? Probably not. I am not convinced families are moving to areas like Lenton. It does not stack up financially. A lot of landlords bought these houses as a student investment anyway.
“I think there is an oversupply coming through.
“There is no private accommodation for residents – that is why we are building the apartment block at BBC Island. There is a lack of residential accommodation full stop.”
Cllr Woodings said of the purpose-built student accommodation already built, only 0.4 per cent was not occupied.
She said the council is still committed to building family homes and not just catering for the student market – with 372 council houses built or in the process of being built.
The local authority will also be selling off its land such as Barton Green in Clifton to create 281 family homes and the Waterside development will accommodate for working professionals.
She added: “Developers say Nottingham is massively undersupplied and developers are looking for plots of land to build student accommodation.”
She said there are currently 64,000 full-time students at both universities, 52,500 of which study in Nottingham with around 44,000 needing accommodation.
Both universities declined to immediately reveal how many students they want to enrol in the future.
But Cllr Woodings says there is currently a shortage of 2,000 bed spaces, with the anticipation an additional 5,000 extra bed spaces will be needed by 2024/25.
In a joint statement, both universities said: “Both universities are currently working in partnership with Nottingham City Council to develop a ‘Student Living Strategy’ for the city. The aim is to actively promote diverse, cohesive communities built on mutual respect and understanding.
“The partners share an ambition to increase availability of purpose-built student accommodation in suitable locations, which has a range of benefits including being better-aligned to student lifestyles, being built in locations that are closer to public transport and walking or cycling routes, and acting as a catalyst for further urban development and job creation.”