UK student accommodation shortage

Many University Cities are facing a sudden shortage in student accommodation, due to several factors ranging from short supply in halls of residences, changes to planning permission and the numbers of studetns being accepted

Many UK University Cities are facing a sudden problem of a student accommodation shortage. Several factors ranging from supply in halls of residences, changes to planning permission and the number of students being admitted. This has created a perfect storm of student housing shortages in some university cities. Students being left homeless, sofa surfing or having to commute from other cities to study have increased over the current academic year. Some universities even offered to pay students to find alternative accommodation instead of accepting a place in halls of residence. Rightly so, students of any year group should be wary of the impact of the changes in the student accommodation market.

Why has this happened?

To simplify the situation, in some university cities the situation where the number of students starting the academic year is greater than the number of beds available to house them. The reason this has occurred is due to the following:

The effects of lockdown

During the covid-19 pandemic, fewer students took up their places which led to an excess of accommodation that couldn’t be filled. Many universities reduced their capacity and private landlords looked to remove property from the student accommodation market. The costs associated with mortgage and bills increases also meant that landlords are looking at alternative tenants for properties previously filled by students.

landlords looking for other markets to rent to that are less susceptible to letting market changes such as all-year-round tenants or Airbnb letting, especially in city centres.

With regards to university-supplied accommodation, after 2 years of having to refund rents and low take-up of places, many universities have balanced the books by housing students in externally owned purpose-built student accommodation apartment blocks instead of relying on their own halls of residences which are costly to run. The greater influx of students means these are not always available for the university to rent places from.

Variable intakes of students.

With the pandemic over, an influx of students returning has exceeded the accommodation supply, this is due to universities increasing capacity on courses, students who deferred through the pandemic returning and overinflated grades at A level and entry courses caused by the pandemic meaning exams and courses could not necessarily be taken and students being graded accordingly to projections as opposed to actual results.

Changes to planning

Many council planning departments have taken to restricting converting properties to houses of multiple occupations (HMO), this has an effect on the

shortages of off-street accommodation houses being converted, more students may apply to study but the housing market isn’t growing to provide accommodation. Reliance by both the universities to provide housing, and students looking for accommodation is being pushed onto privately owned purpose-built student apartment complexes.

What are some universities doing about it?

The media is reporting many horror stories of students in the current academic year, queuing overnight at student estate agents. Having to sofa surf or travelling 30 miles between the nearest accommodation available and the university.

Each university facing shortages is managing the situation in its own way, but some examples include

  • Offering students financial incentives to commute,
  • providing accommodation in another city
  • Converting common room areas into dormitories
  • Offering hotel rooms
  • In some cases telling students to defer or not take up a place where possible.

You can view some of the stories being reported here

Does the student accommodation shortage affect Sheffield?

Sheffield City Council currently holds the view that there is an excess of student accommodation in the city. As such permission for new student accommodation is being declined or more difficult to be acquired. However, this excess may fall if the effects seen in other cities such as Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam increase their student intakes. With private landlords looking to offer properties to other sectors of the market. It could mean that the situation could occur here under the right conditions.

Realistically Can you commute to Sheffield?

Although not always the first choice to commute. If you live in South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire or North Nottinghamshire, commuting is only around 45 minutes. Any further and 2+ hours of your day is spent travelling.

Will Sheffield student accommodation be taken over by students commuting to other cities?

The UK student accommodation shortage is highly unlikely to affect Sheffield, as distances to other universities are over 30 miles. Leeds, Derby and Nottingham are the closest. Manchester is further with access limited frequently through snake pass in the peak district and disruption to the rail network. The long journey times and geographical location of Sheffield make it less of an option for students to live in Sheffield and commute to other universities.

However, it is not impossible as University of Bristol Students have been reported to have to been offered accommodation in Newport, Wales over 20 miles away.

About Thornsett Properties

Thornsett Properties have been providing modern student accommodation in Sheffield since 1985. We supply accommodation to over 650 undergraduates and postgraduate students studying at Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University every year. Designed to fit with your budget whilst looking for student accommodation. Thornsett Properties are property owners and not agents. All our properties are managed by ourselves and not reliant on third parties. We aim to help you succeed in finding student accommodation in Sheffield


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