Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Let up

It might seem tangential to a blog about the survival of a piece of open space, but I am turning to the subject of letting. Around the fringes of Battlefield (a.k.a. City Stadium) the 'to let' signs are gathering as thickly as starlings once did. Streets of neat terrace houses and flats are lined with the colourful and stylishly corporate signs plugging four or five bedrooms available to students.

The decision to go ahead with a large student village on the former paint factory site is just one development among many that have recently grown up close to the city campuses of the two Universities. These new halls of residence (though never so described) are designed from the ground up to provide a higher standard of habitation and greater facilities to a more and more demanding student population far removed from Muriel Spark’s ‘Girls of Slender Means’, or Kingsley Amis’s ‘Lucky Jim’ post war students boiling an egg over a gas ring. Income plays a part obviously, but the standard of accommodation that can be provided seems important as a means of attracting and keeping student’s happy and staying around for the duration of their courses.

This development is going to seriously impact on the ‘buy to rent’ investment housing market. Those who fled the stock market after the ‘internet bubble’ sank much capital into this kind of investment product, financed in part by competition among the former building societies and now dried up banks. The properties are staying unlet for weeks and months and soon a large and heavy penny is going to drop. The owners will not be able to find student tenants let unless they lower rents drastically, perhaps impossible given mortgage repayments, or face being stuck with properties which, if they are tempted to sell, will be coming onto a slack market at one and the same time.

So the question will be where to get tenants, any tenants, to fend off losses? By this way comes a whole tranche of problems. Ask any social housing professional.

If any one at the Civic Centre has considered these questions in detail they seem to have misled themselves badly if they believe as stated to me that this represents a great new opportunity in 'freeing up former student housing' for families. If you did not like noisy student neighbours wait until you meet some of the families who may soon replace them.

Agency signs have been photographically manipulated by battlefieldthebeautiful to remove contact details only.

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