• Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

How purpose-built student accommodation hurts Edinburgh residents

ByCharles Griffin

Dec 3, 2023
Student accommodation looming in a blue sky

A purpose-built student accommodation (PSBA) refers to the enticing capitalistic endeavour of building what should be university owned accommodation and then charging rents far higher for personal gain. These have become virulent within Edinburgh and the country as a whole. The idea is simple: a university creates a housing crisis through continuous inaction and uncontrolled student population growth and in response, private investors are able to build their own accommodation and charge whatever they want. Property Investment’s UK, declare that PBSA’s have an annual yield of about 4.6%, making them a more attractive option for larger companies than traditional Houses in Multiple occupations. 

The soulless monoliths charge some eye watering rents. Westfield Edinburgh, which sits In Murrayfield, charges only £800 a month. For those who want something a little more central, George Street Edinburgh offers rents at £3200 a month. Admittedly, this included what was essentially a small studio flat but assuredly, most ‘Unite Students,’ ‘Vita Students,’ ‘iQ’ and ‘Student Castle’ residences are woefully overpriced. This is all while they take away housing space from initiatives that would provide more affordable accommodation. The university continues to claim that Its inability to properly house students, culminating with a 1/6 of non-first years being without housing at the start of this year, is down to the lack of space within the city. The prominence of this new phenomenon is not helping matters but also serves as good marketing for the PBSA’s because they rely on desperation to have their rents paid.

The companies that run these money-making machines know who to target for their pay out. In conversations that Slurp (Students for Action on Homelessness) had during their student housing survey, they unearthed a plethora of stories. International students, unaware of the way in which the housing system works in Edinburgh, would search online. Because of their influence, these companies are able to top search results. “Student accommodation Edinburgh,” immediately took me to Keel House. At £320 a week, this Haymarket accommodation is truly parasitic. They exploit those who are naive to the way in which the housing system works and exploit the failures of that very system to continue to feed their renting numbers. 

These accommodations contribute nothing to the city, polluting the skyline with their height and taking away money that students might invest in retail or hospitality. They are owned by large multinationals, faceless corporations who rely on crises for their investments to flourish. This is a plea for the city council to do something to restrict this scourge. These dystopian concept-art looking horror shows are not the future that the city requires. That is not to say that Houses with Multiple Occupancies are a solution in themselves. Landlords also benefit from the housing crisis and increase their rents accordingly. What is required is a move away from individualistic living that private landlords flourish within. The Edinburgh Student Housing Co-op is an initiative that fought back against this culture and won.

Within the ESHC, tenants pay £365 a week. They collectively contribute to the running, development and wellbeing of their property which they collectively share. Gone is the soulless, consumerist shell that defines a PBSA. Collective ownership means that residents can paint their walls, replace their floors and fill their rooms with whatever furniture they please. It is a truly brighter view of what student housing could be. Let the university and the city know that this is what the city needs, not parasitic multinationals entrapping the population with their tentacles of greed.  

Adaptive Reuse: Hotel to College Student Housing, Denver CO” by JoeInSouthernCA is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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