As we enter the new year, some of the same issues that blighted policy makers in 2015 are reoccurring again – or more accurately they haven’t gone away.
There is a shortage of affordable housing and accommodation in the UK, especially in the South East but it is a problem all over the country. Social housing stock is currently at incredibly low levels, the population is increasing, house prices are rising and private rents are uncontrolled and on the up. All in all it paints a pretty bleak picture, though you wouldn’t know this to read some newspapers in the UK, as rising house prices are seen as being good for the economy. That in itself is debatable. They may be good for GDP, but in real terms they can unbalance an economy and create a housing bubble. Housing bubbles are fine until they pop, then they make a mess.
In another area of housing, plans and developments for student accommodation continue to be submitted and spring up in lots of towns and cities around the UK, though often in the face of fierce local opposition. It is important to understand why areas object to either student accommodation developments being built, or local housing stock being bought up by student landlords. In the majority of cases it isn’t because local people dislike students.
Wendy, who has lived in the Ecclesall Road area of Sheffield for over 40 years, says the students aren’t really the problem. “They can be loud sometimes at night but overall they are good for local people who run local businesses in the area. That isn’t the problem I have with student houses, it is that local people can’t afford to buy houses here any more, and even if they can so many of the houses are student houses now that there aren’t as many homes available and people have to leave the area. I don’t think that is fair.”
Whether that perception is completely accurate or not makes little difference, despite what local officials might think. The perception is there, so the opposition to new developments will be there.
With all that in mind it is surely time that local authorities and developers started looking into creating more multi-purpose housing complexes, containing student accommodation, flats/houses for sale that non-landlord buyers could purchase and some social housing as well for low income locals or people who struggle to get on the housing market in their area. The issue isn’t co-existence, it is space and opportunity.
Shared developments or newly built estates provide opportunities to please universities, students, locals and to help ease the housing crisis. It will never be simple, and local issues and complications will have to be tackled on a case by case basis but surely it is time to investigate and explore the possibilities.