Student Housing: Crisis and Opportunity? – A Cockburn Association ‘Open Edinburgh’ event
POSTED ON June 22, 2023 BY James Garry
There was no disagreement that Edinburgh has a housing crisis, and that student housing forms a part
of that crisis
Executive Summary and Conclusions
There was no disagreement that Edinburgh has a housing crisis, and that student housing forms a part of that crisis. Similarly, there was no disagreement that those who can afford to and have secured housing do not experience the significant challenges posed by the current situation. It is those who struggle to gain access into the student housing market who suffer the most. Access both a supply and a cost issue.
There are very clear gaps in data which hinder not only the understanding of the issues but the effective solution to the problem. It also affects the ability to have a constructive dialogue between the various parties who have a direct interest in it – students, the City Council, Universities, and local communities.
Most significant is the fact that there is no Housing Needs Assessment for student housing to inform planning policy as well as guide supply in a market-driven economy. Similarly, there is a lack of transparent and publicly available masterplans for all the city’s universities outlining growth and development objectives. These are required in order to help all parties understand and discuss the implications of any growth plans. The expansion of student numbers and therefore accommodation has direct consequences on local communities, who may perceive this as a threat to community cohesion and balance. Perhaps bringing the two together into a single document could result in a dynamic ‘gown in town’ development appraisal that compliments current City Council plans such as City Plan 2023.
The development sector responds in ad hoc ways to market expansion, competing to acquire sites for development. There is a concern in some quarters that “the market will decide” approach to land-use planning will result in a fragmented and inequitable provision as developers move up market, leaving the supply of ‘affordable’ accommodation behind.
From the student’s perspective, it is crucial to understand that there is not just one type of student or one set of student needs. Hall-like accommodation might be very popular in the first year, but this can change over the duration of study with very different models of provision. In Edinburgh, the strong competition for accommodation with other sectors has a range of impacts, and these can be dynamic and difficult to address. Landlords of all types might wish to use accommodation for tourism lets in the summer (or indeed year-round), pressuring students to find accommodation elsewhere.
Against this wide range of differing perspectives, there was considerable agreement from the various panellists at this conference. All accept the seriousness of the housing crisis affecting students; all accept that that student accommodation is a subset of a wider housing crisis in the city; all agree that the impacts can vary considerably across the wider student population; and all agree that there are sizable gaps in data and transparency of decision-making that hinders effective planning.
Read the full report here: