Time bomb for student accommodation

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Student housing woes look set to worsen even further in the coming years due to a combination of new government legislation, an increased international student body and the closure of the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus.

The feared housing shortage this year failed to materialise to the extent that was expected with only 150 students needing bed space instead of the estimated 500.

But with in-town landlords selling up due to increased space on campus in recent years, students are fearing an accommodation time bomb.

LUSU Housing Manager Matthew Ward agreed that there were ‘potentially’ a lot of issues for the future.

“There’s a longer term situation with regards to the university’s own growth and the effect that may well have on the city in terms of the university providing off campus accommodation in the future, especially given the current market,” he said. “There aren’t a huge number of landlords coming to the buy to let market. [We need to] work with the City Council to encourage Lancaster’s private rent sector to develop.”

New legislation will give councils the power to decline licences to landlords, making them unable to let to students, in an attempt to forcibly spread student accommodation around areas in need of income.

Torri Crapper, LUSU VP (Equality, Welfare and Diversity) said: “The landlords in these areas have in many situations expensive adaptations to make to fit with new legislation which makes them reconsider the benefits of a student house.”

The university is also trying to further increase the number of international students it receives each year. With these students being guaranteed on campus housing ahead of British and EU students, there is concern that this will put yet more strain on students desperately trying to find a bed for the year.

“When the university first started attracting international students in smaller numbers it allowed them the confidence to study here knowing they were guaranteed accommodation,” Crapper added.

“I asked the Head of Colleges and Residences to look at reclassification of students and am currently waiting for a firm answer.”

Nicola Haslam, of Lonsdale, who was declined on-campus housing, said: “Non-international students should be made aware from the beginning of the year how limited on campus accommodation is. The university put us under a false sense of security. We students are now under pressure to find a quality house in town in a short time period which could have been easily avoided.”

The University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus, founded only in 2007, has fallen foul of the recession and been forced to close. The majority of its 650 students have been moved to the Lancaster campus, putting added pressure on the housing infrastructure.

A spokesman for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) told the Westmorland Gazette: “The University has found it difficult to recruit students in sufficient numbers and its growth has been slower than forecast.”

“Hilary Simmons, Head of the College and Residences Office, has been in contact with [the University of Cumbria] to try and clarify the points. Depending on what sort of impact they think that will have may impinge on demand off campus as well,” said Ward.

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