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10,000 more student beds planned for Nottingham

The shortage of affordable homes in Nottingham “could have been an awful lot worse” if enough student accommodation blocks had not been built, the city council has said.

There are around 61,700 students studying at the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University combined, with an estimated 50,900  of them needing suitable accommodation in 2022/23.

During a Nottingham City Council planning committee meeting on March 22, councillors were told the need is expected to rise again by roughly 4,000 to 5,000 students between 2023 and 2026.

The council’s planning director, Paul Seddon says that the city has so far been able to “keep a lid on” housing shortages seen in places such as Durham, Bristol, York and Manchester.

In Bristol, for example, some students have been forced to live in Wales due to a significant shortage of available housing.

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Nottingham has so far managed to avoid similar crises – and the council’s policy is to focus on building sufficient purpose-built student accommodation blocks in the centre of town.

If enough purpose-built accommodation hadn’t been built the impact on the housing market in the city “would have been extreme”, Mr Seddon says.

During the meeting, Mr Seddon said: “What we have managed to do in the city is make sure the growth in demand for student accommodation has not further exasperated and pushed even further on that challenge of affordability.

“If there hadn’t been that growth in purpose-built, all of that demand cannot be stopped, wouldn’t have been stopped, and would have translated to even greater excessive pressure on the existing housing in the city.

“If all we have done is hold things to where all the macro-policy decisions and economics around the housing market are, I think that has been quite a significant thing to achieve over the decade.

“It could have been an awful lot worse and we would have been part of those headlines.”

According to the latest data, there is a one per cent vacancy rate in the city for student beds.

The city council wants this rate to be higher to allow for healthy competition.

To achieve this another 10,000 student beds are planned in the city, the largest development pipeline outside London.

Students are exempt from paying council tax, and the authority is able to monitor how many students are living ‘on-street’ and outside of purpose-built blocks by looking at these exemptions.

If students have more purpose-built blocks to live in, people who must pay council tax will move back into ‘on-street’ flats and houses.

The data now shows provision of purpose-built accommodation may begin to outstrip demand over the next few years.

“That is not actually a healthy amount of vacancy,” Mr Seddon said.

“You want more vacancy because that would enable bits to close for refurbishment, investment and also that healthy competition between providers.

“We’ve never got ahead of the growth in student numbers.

“Up until now, and we are thinking just this year, or the next few years, the pipeline of delivery should start to get ahead.”

Cllr Graham Chapman (Lab), the vice chairman of the planning committee, added: “We’ve got to handle it.

“If we manage to displace students out of ordinary housing, and we are starting to do that, we get additional council tax.

“So it is not all lost. The other thing they do is we get the benefit of expense.

“When I came to Nottingham in the 1980s, Hockley was dead and so was the Lace Market. Now it is probably one of the most dynamic areas in the country.

“And that is because of students and students are spending money.”

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