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Housing issues persist in a number of student cities

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Destinations around the world are reporting considerable pressure on student housing stock this year
  • This is partly a function of greater numbers of students returning to study on campus after deferring studies, or following courses remotely, over the last two years of the pandemic
  • The surging demand is driving up rental rates and placing increasing pressure on student support services
  • In some cases, institutions or even governments have decided to provide housing or transit subsidies to help counter the rising costs for students

Rising energy costs, inflation, and surging interest rates are all contributing to a student housing crunch in many study destinations this year.

The situation is particularly acute in Ireland, where issues around cost and availability of student housing have been present for years. The situation, however, is notably worse as the new academic year gets underway. The Independent reported recently that Irish universities are dealing with a spike in deferred applications this semester, with many students citing the inability to find a place to live as the reason for delaying their studies.

“Nearly one-third of students who have deferred their place at University of Galway have done so because of accommodation issues,” said the paper, “while Trinity College Dublin (TCD) said its deferral requests are up 20% on last year.”

Meanwhile, University of Galway said that of the 300 undergraduate deferrals it has so far received, nearly a third cited issues with accommodation.

The situation is similar in Scotland, where the University of Glasgow has advised incoming students to “suspend your studies or withdraw”, and even to avoid travel to Glasgow, until they have secured housing. “Hundreds of students have returned after the summer break with nowhere to stay due to a shortage of available flats and soaring rents,” adds BBC News.

“Across the UK, there has been unprecedented demand this year for university-provided accommodation,” adds another recent statement from the University of Manchester. “Our student accommodation is oversubscribed. We have made strenuous efforts to find suitable alternative options in Manchester, however this has proved exceptionally challenging this year.”

The university has taken a number of extraordinary steps, including offering incoming students a financial incentive of £2,500 to give up their spot in student housing. Roughly 130 Manchester students will be staying in Liverpool this year, which is about a one-hour train ride away, but with a £100 per week subsidy from the university to help offset the additional travel expenses.

Surging demand is driving rents higher

As is the case in many other destinations this year, the surging demand for student housing is also driving up rental rates across Germany. SchengenVisaInfo.com reports that rents across the country have increased by 6% this year, compared to a year prior, with Munich and Berlin among the most expensive cities for students.

The report quotes Professor Michael Voigtländer, a real estate expert at the German Economic Institute, who explains that is not only surging demand from students that is contributing to the housing crunch this year but also larger economic trends as well. Professor Voigtländer cites rising energy costs (and thus an interest in smaller, more affordable rental units) and continuing interest rate hikes (leading more people to rent rather than buy this year) as some of the macro factors that are driving up the cost of rental housing.

As the housing and travel subsidies noted above would suggest, pressure is growing as well on institutions and schools to provide additional assistance to incoming students to secure suitable accommodation. This has placed a considerable additional demand on staff and on support services for students. As the University of Manchester has said, “We have made strenuous efforts to find suitable alternative [housing] options, however this has proved exceptionally challenging this year.”

We should note as well that housing issues extend well beyond Ireland, the UK, and Germany, with the Netherlands and Canada, among others, also reporting increasing challenges around student accommodation this year.

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