Planning system stumps student housing schemes

December 7, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
Planning system stumps student housing schemes

Luxury student accommodation provider Collegiate AC has said that one of the main barriers to the development of more affordable contemporary student accommodation schemes is the UK planning system.

Inflated land values make it all but impossible for the private sector to build cheaper accommodation, while the universities themselves are entirely priced out of the market, Collegiate AC said.

The high-end accommodation provider has suggested that the latest technology used by luxury developers can be used to build more affordable developments. As choice within the marketplace grows, led by higher-end schemes, their standards and design will be replicated at lower cost throughout the sector.

“Premium schemes are not the problem,” Collegiate CEO Heriberto Cuanalo said. “They often set new standards and technologies that cheaper schemes can follow. What we need is more investment and supply at the more affordable end of the market; we all recognise that there is a larger market at a cheaper level.

“The solution is to deregulate planning to free up supply and accelerate the availability of high quality accommodation choices within the investment market, focusing on where the greatest opportunity lies as competition increases. That is how efficient markets work, but with the barriers presented by unhelpful planning regulations they will always face artificially high costs.”

Universities and students have faced a number of financial challenges in recent years. The 2014/15 academic year saw university teaching budgets slashed by almost 6% as the Higher Education Funding Council for England sought to reduce costs.

This year, students themselves have been hit in the pocket by the government’s scrapping of maintenance grants. With universities able to raise their tuition fees above the rate of inflation from 2017/18, students’ ability to afford their education doesn’t look set to get any easier anytime soon.

“Higher education is increasingly important and increasingly expensive, creating serious challenges for many of our young people,” said Cuanalo. “One of those challenges is about choice and affordability of high quality student housing.”

The government also has its role to play in working to create a new economic climate in which grants are once more available to students from low income families and students can look forward to the prospect of high-paying jobs to help them repay their debts, Cuanalo said. The Brexit process is set to create both challenges and opportunities in this respect.

PHOTO CREDIT: CollegeDegrees360


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