CITY CENTRE STUDENT QUARTERS PLANNED TO EASE HOMES PRESSURE

On Thursday, 7 June 2012, the Nottingham Post carried a feature on proposals by Nottingham City Council to encourage the construction of purpose-built student accommodation in certain parts of the city centre. As well as the main article, the feature also carried reactions from the NAG and also from a Nottingham Trent University student. The Nottingham Post website also published comments from the general public. ...


 
Integrating students and local residents is an age-old problem for areas like Lenton, which has a thriving student community.

Complaints from long-term residents range from those about loud music and late-night parties, to the untended gardens and a feeling that their annually-changing neighbours do not put enough into the local community.

Students face further pressure because of the acute shortage of family housing in the city, making the large homes they share with friends much-sought-after property.

But today the Post can reveal that the council hopes to create two "student quarters" in the city where it would encourage the construction of purpose- built student accommodation.

The Southern Student Quarter would take in the area surrounding Nottingham Station, while the Northern Student Quarter would include Maid Marian Way, Talbot Street and Derby Road. They would be aimed at both universities.

Aside from student housing, the council says it would welcome cafes, leisure services, local shops, start-up businesses and pop-up shops run by graduates.

It hopes the new accommodation and attractive city-centre location will lure students away from some of the old Lenton family homes.

The plans are already under way, with planning permission granted for the conversion of the old Lawrence House council building, in Talbot Street, into a 200-bed student block.

Councillor Graham Chapman, deputy leader of the council, said: "We've been trying for years to take pressure off private housing.

"This city is extremely successful when it comes to attracting students – it's the most popular in the country.

"The reality is that without the students' spend, we would not be batting above our weight with retail. They're helping to keep the city centre and some of the inner shopping areas alive. On the other hand, the reality is they create great difficulties.

"Some students are on almost entirely student streets and sometimes it's not pleasant for residents and it encourages them to move out, which reinforces the problem.

"For a number of years, we've been trying to build spacious student accommodation and a lot of it has been in the area where students already exist – Lenton, Radford – but it still hasn't relieved the problem to the degree we want it to.”

He added that building student accommodation in the city centre also solved the problem of what to do with office blocks which had lay empty for years.

"It also provides customers for city centre shops," he said.

"The other advantage of the city centre is there's no local people to disturb.”

A council report says such new purpose-built accommodation must have more attractive rents or novel facilities to entice students from shared houses. Mr Chapman said he expected newly-built homes to be more popular with international students, whose numbers are expected to increase despite tuition fee prices.

He added that the station area could become popular once the tram was running through the university, making access easy.

The council has changed planning rules so that landlords have to request planning permission to rent their houses out to three or more people who are not related.

It has also said it might offer landlords incentives to turn student housing back into family housing if it is no longer required by students.

[Nottingham Post, Thursday, 7 June 2012]


LANDLORDS ENJOYING A SLACK TAX REGIME

Here are some thoughts which may help to stimulate debate about student housing.

First, as a transient population, students have no roots in a neighbourhood – no long-term interest in its future.

But, to be viable, a neighbourhood needs people who will invest in that future.

Second, will a student quarter merely help further expansion of our universities? Or is it a workable strategy to tackle an overheated housing market in these neighbourhoods?

Disproportionately high rents and inflated property prices are a daunting prospect for people (including students) who might otherwise live and raise families in them.

Furthermore, if purpose-built apartments are to succeed, future standards of design, quality and flexibility-of-use must be significantly better. Especially so if the aim is to address the situation where first-year students, determined to get out of shoe-boxes which aren't fit-for-purpose, end up causing good homes to be lost to the city's future families.

Finally there is the question of costs. Landlords who convert their houses into student homes are subsidised by various benefits such as a slack tax regime on buy-to-let and exemption from local taxes.

So, how will someone who wants to provide first-class apartments that students enjoy living in, at rents they can afford, be able to compete with them? However, this sort of development is what is needed and what the council should promote.

Equally essential is active support from the universities and their student bodies, particularly in advocating apartments, not family houses, as the preferred three-year choice for prospective students.

[Nottingham Post Comment by Maya Fletcher who lives on the edge of Wollaton Park & Lenton, Thursday, 7 June 2012]

 

BIG-CITY EXPERIENCE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE

As a student living in Nottingham, I can see the merit in encouraging those in their university years to stay in and around the city centre.

A lot of people aged 18-21 crave the big city experience, which is often at the core of both their work and social lives. However, to presume that all students are able or want to live ‘downtown’ would be an inaccurate stereotype.

The most common route for students involves communal halls of residence in the first year, before renting a house with closer friends for the rest of university life.

This system suited me perfectly, as, being surrounded by so many like-minded students early on really helps you to settle in, but going into your second year results in a much higher workload, so being able to move to a house with fewer people and distractions is the most practical thing to do.

Student housing developments proposed by the council to be built near the train station and Maid Marian Way would no doubt prove attractive to some prospective students, but I feel obstacles such as pricing and location would prove too much for many.

It may be true that families in areas such as Lenton and Radford are struggling to find homes. However, the University of Nottingham is based around three miles from the city centre, giving students little choice but to live in residential parts of the city.

For people living away from home in higher education, money means a huge deal, and talking personally, I saved £25 a week this year living in a house instead of a communal setup similar to what the city council are seeking to build.

If a lack of housing for locals is the problem, maybe it is more homes, and not student accommodation that is needed to be constructed.

[Nottingham Post Comment by James Law, Journalism student who has finished his second year at Nottingham Trent University and lives in Mapperley,  Thursday, 7 June, 2012]