Is Student Accommodation Still Affordable in UK?

The cost of living – and of having somewhere to live – has been rising in the UK for a while. Students have not been immune from this trend. Affordable accommodation for students is still available, albeit less cheap than in past years, but this is partly offset by rising quality.

There is no denying that the cost of student accommodation has risen noticeably. However, this does not necessarily mean there is no longer such thing as affordable student accommodation. Nonetheless, it is a simple truth that students who want to keep their cost of living as low as possible face a greater challenge than their predecessors did. This is especially true in London, where the cost of living and of accommodation – student or otherwise – is significantly higher than in the rest of the country.

Supply and Demand

Indeed, the cost of student accommodation has arguably risen faster than the cost of renting other residential and commercial properties. This is due in no small part to a significant imbalance between supply and demand. Student numbers are rising significantly, with more people applying and being accepted with every new intake. The most recent intake has seen a particularly strong leap due to the abolition of intake caps. The only real exception to this upward trend was a dip in student numbers following tuition-fee hikes a few years ago, which was significant but has since been corrected and left behind. The number of international students coming to the UK is also on the rise.

Such significant growth in the number of students needing a place to live has significantly outpaced the amount of new accommodation coming on to the market. Demand has risen and continues to grow, while supply lags behind, struggling to catch up, and this is a sure recipe for price increases.

Market Changes

However, affordable student accommodation is not a thing that has ceased to exist entirely. Furthermore, the increase in prices has not been as simple as prices for the same type of housing heading steadily upwards. Rather, there has been a shift in the market and in the types of properties involved, and this has been partly student-led.

Despite having less choice as a result of the supply-demand imbalance, students have for some time been raising their standards. Affordability is no longer the only key feature they look for. Students in the past may have been happy with run-down but just about good enough accommodation as long as the price was right, but today’s student is likely to balance price with a desire for good-quality and well-located accommodation with key amenities such as high-speed internet and satellite television.

Partly for this reason, the number of professional names involved in the student market has increased. Companies offering purpose-built accommodation or specially renovated house shares on a large scale are better positioned to offer affordable student accommodation that is also of high quality and located close to universities and local amenities – a balance better suited to the needs of current students than affordable but low-quality housing.