Developers of new student accommodation in Nottingham may have to pay a contribution towards affordable housing in the city, under new proposals set to go to the City Council’s Executive Board for approval next week (18 May 2021).

The council is receiving unprecedented numbers of planning applications to build Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), as student numbers continue to rise in the city – with approximately 52,500 full time students at both universities in the 2020/21 academic year.

This has led to significant growth in privately provided student accommodation in the city and an increase in the number of new PBSA developments being built.

Despite a further 2,000 PBSA bedspaces becoming available for this academic year (2020-21) in Nottingham, figures show that this is only just keeping up with demand. In previous years the increase in additional new bed spaces has been lower than the increase in student numbers – creating an actual shortfall.

The council’s Annual Vacancy Survey of PBSA has consistently shown the vast majority of bedspaces are full (less than 2% of all bedspaces were vacant). In a recent consultation with student accommodation providers, the vast majority (82%) confirmed that they expect the PBSA market to return to previous trends once all Covid-related restrictions are removed.

More PBSA developments are needed to try to deal with the previous shortfall in PBSA bed spaces, meet the growing demand as student numbers increase and with the aim of returning traditional family housing, currently often used by students as Houses of Multiple Occupation, back into homes for families with a housing need.

If adopted, the new Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), which went through a public consultation last year, will help improve the balance of housing types across the city by using Section 106 agreements.

These are negotiated as part of the planning process and aim to mitigate the impact of a new development on the local community, often contributing towards employment and training opportunities, educational services, the upkeep of open spaces and investment in transport and its infrastructure.

The recently adopted Local Plan – used by planning officers and members of the Planning Committee alongside other national and local documents, including SPDs, when considering planning applications – sets out the principle for seeking affordable housing contributions from new PBSA developers. Currently, The Local Plan requires 10% of all new residential developments of between 10-14 homes to be affordable housing, and 20% for schemes of 15 homes or more.

The SPD will bring student schemes in line with this requirement for general housing, by proving a mechanism to secure funding for affordable housing contributions using the following thresholds:

  • Between 50-74 bed spaces – 10% contribution
  • 75+ bed spaces – 20% contribution.

The amount of contribution will depend on the size, impact and viability for each development. Currently, PBSA schemes contribute towards improvements to open space, employment & training opportunities and other necessary contributions such as flood protection measures.

Cllr Linda Woodings, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage, said: “Our two universities are vital for the city’s economy, especially now, as the city recovers from Covid-19. They are important in terms of the investment they bring and the jobs they support and create, as well as helping to teach and train our future doctors, nurses, scientists and teachers.

“We understand there’s a perception that there’s too much student accommodation in the city, but actually, developers are currently only just keeping pace with demand and of course other housing types continue to be planned and built in the city.

“Purpose Built Student Accommodation is an essential part of Nottingham’s housing market – allowing students to live in the right accommodation and locations for them while freeing up much-needed family housing – but as new schemes come forward, the City Council wants to ensure that they contribute towards the city’s affordable housing needs.

“Nottingham residents are in need of affordable housing, and the financial contributions from these schemes can help us build new affordable homes to meet that demand.”