Does university expansion exacerbate housing crises?

Student Housing August 4th, 2017
Does university expansion exacerbate housing crises?

Arthur takes a look at how university expansion can worsen the effects felt by housing crises…

Universities can be the life and soul of cities, especially when student populations are key to a city’s cultural wealth and thriving economy. Whilst Bristol is a city which is exemplar of this trend, boasting two highly-regarded universities – the University of Bristol (UoB) and the University of West England (UWE) -, many are concerned that continuous university expansion plans will cause more harm than good.

The University of Bristol’s plan for a brand new £300 million campus, sitting inside the city’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone area, is ambitious to say the least. One of the largest regeneration projects in the UK, by 2020, the university plans to inject new life into the sit which once housed a postal sorting office. As part of the project, a joint residential plan for students and teachers alike from both Bristol and UWE is underway.  It’s backers claim that this expansion project will not only “secure the University’s future growth for generations to come”, but will also provide the city with jobs and certain communities with new opportunities. However, the extent of the expansion is a cause for concern for those already affected by the ongoing housing crisis, who claim that the knock-on effects include community displacement, lack of family homes, fly-tipping, and businesses heavily suffering out of university term time.

Rents are rising all over the city- there’s no doubt about that. But it’s especially important to realise that it is not just the students who are being priced out of certain areas. As student populations rise, more and more landlords look to rent out their properties to students with the aim of fitting in more bedrooms and ultimately, charging higher prices. This means that many people are then priced out of their local areas, or unable to find suitable family homes in those communities that were once untouched by the “student scene”, which are now becoming increasingly gentrified. Fears over a loss of character and community in area surrounding the expansion site, known as Totterdown, have led local councillor, Jon Wellington to call for a financial contribution from the University in order to compensate some of the negative impact.

An article in the Bristol Post reports that the three main issues regarding the project were:

  1. Students don’t pay council tax, which means the council has to provide services for them for free
  2. Developers are buying land to build student accommodation. This means that they avoid requirements surrounding affordable/social housing in favour of larger profits. It seems housing associations can no longer compete with these developers
  3. The unavoidable increase in HMOs in the Totterdown area will strain local neighbourhoods in terms of council services, traffic and parking

Whilst the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees supports the influence of the University of Bristol and UWE on the city, he claims that there “needs to be capacity for them to flourish in a way that is mutually beneficial to Bristol”.

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