A staggering 6,000 new student bedrooms are planned in Glasgow over the next few years, according to Glasgow City Council documents. Private operators – who typically charge exorbitant rents of between £650 and £1,000 a month rental for what often amounts to a glorified bedsit – are believed to be behind all of the proposed rooms.
The full scale of the new developments in shown in the coloured dots on the below map, recently produced for the council as part of research commissioned from the estate agent Savills. The map shows the 5,983 new rooms spread across 19 developments, most of them shown clustered around Strathclyde University.
This will come on top of 17,888 beds across 67 schemes which exist, as of this month. Of these, 6,575 are owned by universities.
In December 2016 it was estimated that there were 7,706 rooms in privately owned purpose built student accommodation in Glasgow. That number has now climbed to 11,313, signifiying growth of 47 percent in just one year.
It remains unlikely that all developments will come to fruition. On Cathedral Street, the Macdonald Furniture Showroom – which was open for 80 years in a prominent white former church building near Buchanan Bus Station – was demolished to make way for a 19 storey block of student accommodation. Yet no construction work has started and planning permission will expire after three years this September.
Student housing has been broadly welcomed by the authorities under the belief it will bring economic benefits to Glasgow as well as easing pressure on existing housing supply. Yet despite the influx of new purpose built student accommodation in 2017, private rents in the city continued to rise, increasing above the national average for the first time.
International students are particularly vulnerable to exploitation through private student housing, with rooms readily available and appearing to provide some guarantee of quality if someone is not in the country to view flats themselves, and not least when guarantors and credit checks are often required in the private rented sector. Claims that the accommodation is being developed to genuinely meet housing need is dubious at best, however, and the social benefits for the students living with them, and wider communities, are questionable.
But then the primary motivation is making a quick return on profits, with little consideration of building quality – beyond the shiny veneer – or durability. Purpose built student accommodation is also, strangely, exempt from normal business rates, which alongside the council tax exemption of students means they do not pay into council coffers.
“Reflecting its popularity with income funds, student housing continues to offer significant potential as an income producing asset class with counter-cyclical qualitities,” reckons the ‘Director of Residential Capital Markets, Europe’ at Savills (them again??!).
As we continue to shine at a light on student housing developers in Glasgow, following yesterday’s revelation that the head office of the STUC is set to become student flats, this weekend we will reveal the offshore, tax haven ownership of two key city centre sites.