NUS and Unipol today have released the findings of the Accommodation Costs Survey 2018/19, a biennial survey of private and charitable providers to explore rental costs, stock provision and the outlook of the sector.
Since 2006, Unipol and NUS have partnered to produce what has become an increasingly detailed and sophisticated commentary, resting as it does on the most substantial amount of data available.
• In 2018/19 the overall average weekly rent stands at £147, an increase of five per cent since last year, of 8.9 per cent on 2015/16 and 31.3 per cent since 2011/12. The average for the private sector is £153, 9.3 per cent higher than the university mean of £140.
• The average annual rent for 2018/19 is £6,366, up six per cent on the previous year and by a third on 2012/13. In London the average is £8,875 and for the rest of the UK £5,928. This is has consistently risen above inflation and the total maintenance loan amount.
• In 2018/19, the proportion of bed spaces provided by the commercial sector has reached half of total stock, up from 39 per cent in 2012/13.
• Since 2012/13 the balance between the three primary stock types (standard self-catered, en-suite self-catered and studio flats) has changed considerably. Self-catered en-suite accommodation accounts for the lion’s share of stock, amounting to 58 per cent of total rooms in the survey, up two percentage points since 2012/13. This represents growth of nine per cent or 19,300 rooms.
• There has been a steady erosion of the proportion of maintenance support available once rent has been paid. In 2011/12 rents accounted for 58 per cent of the maximum financial support allowed. In 2018/19 the figure is 73 per cent.
• All providers should think about the provision of affordable stock now and incorporate this into their strategies.
• Planners should intervene and call time on over-investment in the studio market and should impose strict conditions on the granting of permission for more studios.
• At a time, when student mental health is a major sector concern, all providers should be considering how a community can be nurtured, using social spaces and residential life programmes as common good practice.
• That providers establish an open dialogue with students in partnership with their students’ unions in order to help manage expectations and deliver on student needs.
• The Competitions and Markets Authority should intervene to check that accommodation debts are not being used to stop students graduating and that the Office for Students should set some proportionality guidelines for universities which do not allow students to attend graduation ceremonies in cases where the debt is limited, and sometimes contested.
Launching the report in Central London, Eva Crossan Jory, NUS Vice President (Welfare) said:
“The increasing cost of accommodation has created a real affordability problem for students. Rent continues to rise - above measures of inflation, but also in proportion to the already inadequate student loan package. As a consequence, students are required to spend more of their income on rent than in previous years – up on average from 59% to 73% since 2011/12. Less than 7% of private sector rooms are offered at an affordable rate, in contrast to the significant growth at the more expensive end of the market – demonstrated by a marked increase in the number of en-suite or studio rooms.”
“One consequence of this trend is that students are often working a greater number of hours, which can be a detriment to their studies. The need for change is clear: we need a new model for the provision of student accommodation that puts affordability for students, rather than profit, at the heart of its mission. There is also a responsibility upon government to consider not just the financial burden of these costs, but how they present a barrier to accessing education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as it shapes the future of student funding in the wake of the post-18 funding review.”
Commenting on the findings, Unipol CEO, Martin Blakey:
“This report highlights how we need to do more – to have proper affordability strategies, develop a whole sophisticated model of student need, be innovative in development accommodation for all students – not just the well-off”.