What Happens When The Students Leave?

Stephen Fuery, Marketing Executive, TCAS Online

24th August 2016

This blog has covered the disputes between local residents and developers seeking planning permission for student housing on numerous occasions. The arguments are well known. The students are loud, messy and cause chaos in the local area. They constantly party, litter the streets and then disappear for the summer leaving the area as a ghost town. Student supporters would argue they bring life, vibrancy and money into the areas they reside in.

However, purpose built student accommodation sometimes has the opposite effect. If it is built in the right kind of area it can help draw students away from residential areas. With good planning and sensible co-operation between developers, local councillors and local residents, student housing can be much less of a contentious issue than it is in some parts of the UK. But, if that process starts to occur, what happens to the areas the students leave behind?

A recent example of this happening is in Headingley, in Leeds. Since the late 1990s the area became a student hub, with thousands of students moving to the area and landlords purchasing houses to turn them into HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) so that a standard family home could hold 5 or 6 students at a time. It was a typical student area in term time and a ghost town during the summer, with residents who have stayed in the area complaining of noise, disorderly behaviour and the disappearance of community spirit.

That is changing though, as students have started to move out of the area in favour of other locations and also to move into purpose built student accommodation. Excellent planning from Leeds City Council has meant that more purpose built student digs exist in the city, generally away from large residential areas. So what is happening in Headingley?

Well, non-students are returning to the area. Around 80% of recent house purchases in the area have been made by young families and young couples, breathing life back into the community. However, despite student landlords finding it difficult to fill their properties with students, not all landlords are selling up. Some are retaining their HMO status but are attracting young professionals who work in the city to move into the area. As a result, house prices in the area are also increasing.

Whilst it is important not to paint students are social wreckers, the story of what is happening in Headingley also shows that it is possible to get the balance right. Universities and local councils need to invest in more purpose built student accommodation to alleviate the pressure on areas like Headingley, where the influx of students has gone past adding life and character to an area and has started to become a problem.

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