• Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Edinburgh Council must encourage more student housing development

ByWill Thies

Oct 25, 2023
image of Salisbury court accommodation

The Edinburgh city council’s proposed city plan for the following decade is currently under examination and due to be approved at the beginning of next year. As housing prices continue to go up and as an increasing number of students struggle to find a place to stay, how have the city councilors addressed this issue? While there are housing provisions that will help Edinburgh’s wider population (such as provisions to increase council housing), the council is set to implement key regulations that will almost certainly worsen housing prospects for students.

Building new housing in Edinburgh is already difficult. Much of Edinburgh is classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO, and rightfully so, but this does act as a barrier to construction. As Edinburgh’s tech and finance sectors continue to grow and the city’s universities continue to accept more students, the housing supply has failed to keep up with the demands of those moving there, leading to dramatic price hikes. There has been a whopping 54 per cent increase in rent costs over the past decade and this number will likely continue to rise. This problem is particularly acute for students, who are often looking for the cheapest possible option in regards to housing. According to a survey by Slurp, nearly 10 per cent of students had yet to sign a tenancy agreement this time last year.

Unfortunately, the city council has done little to facilitate the construction of new student housing. In a well-intentioned but short-sighted move, the Edinburgh city council has imposed a 50 per cent housing requirement on the conversion or construction of private Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs). This regulation restricting private accommodation decreases the total supply of student housing and pushes wealthier students to compete with lower income students for more affordable halls, while also completely failing to consider the differing needs of students and families, which are often at odds with one another.

Students want to be near universities, nightlife and leisure areas whilst families need to be close to schools, parks and larger supermarkets, which are generally not found near Edinburgh’s universities. In addition, families can simply afford to live further from the inner city than students: over 60 per cent of Edinburgh households own cars, in contrast to a miniscule number of students. While students do not have cars, the construction of PBSAs under the proposed regulations would require the construction of a minimum number of parking spots, further discouraging potential developers from construction. Lastly, PBSAs are extremely dense and would be able to house more people in less space than the HMO flats that many students currently live in, putting more flats back on the market for families.

Generally, a more expensive Edinburgh will only discourage low-income students from moving to Edinburgh and act as a bottleneck to growth in a city that has experienced consistent population growth since the early 1990s. For a city that benefits from an influx of university students, the city council seems hostile towards working with developers to provide better housing at the detriment to everyone living in Edinburgh.

An exemption from housing and parking requirements for the construction of PBSAs would offer students a wider diversity of choice in price, quality and location of housing to create a more cohesive Edinburgh.

Image via Archie Ashley.