Student accommodation developers asked to pay for affordable housing

York House is currently being built in Nottingham city centre

Developers of new student accommodation in Nottingham will have to pay a contribution towards new affordable housing in the city, under new proposals by the City Council.

The council says it is receiving “unprecedented” numbers of planning applications to build student digs. Figures for the 2019/20 academic year showed that there were more than 49,000 full-time students at both city universities in the 2019/20 academic year.

Despite a further 1,350 student bedspaces becoming available for this academic year (2019-20) in Nottingham, latest figures show that this is only just keeping up with demand, says the council. In previous years the increase in student numbers has been less than the increase in additional new bedspaces – creating a shortfall.

The council’s Annual Vacancy Survey of PBSA is expected to show that vacancies remain low. The council says that more purpose-built student developments are needed to try to deal with previous shortfall bedspaces, meet the growing demand as student numbers increase and free up traditional shared housing for families who need them – one of its main tenets.

The council’s proposal seeks to help with the balance of housing types by using Section 106 agreements to require developers to make a financial contribution towards more affordable housing in the city.

The recently adopted Local Plan, which is one of the documents planners refer to when making planning decisions, sets out the principle for seeking contributions from new PBSA for affordable housing contributions. The new Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) sets out how the City Council intends to agree S106 contributions for affordable housing from PBSA developments.

If approved, planning officers and members of the Planning Committee will be able to use the SPD alongside other documents when deciding whether to allow or refuse planning permissions, and any conditions, such as a Section106 agreement, which will apply if permission is granted.

The Local Plan currently requires that 10% of all new residential developments of between 10-14 homes be for affordable housing, and 20% from schemes of 15 homes or more. The SPD will bring student schemes in line with this same requirement for general housing by proving a mechanism to secure funding for affordable housing contributions.

Councillor Linda Woodings, portfolio holder for planning, housing and heritage, said: “Our two universities are vital for the city’s economy in terms of both 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 that there’s a perception that there’s too much student accommodation in the city, but actually, we are only just keeping pace with demand. Vacancy rates in new student flats have remained consistently below 2% for the past six years, with no signs of that changing as student numbers continue to rise.

“As a council we want to ensure that, as we continue to support these new developments, they in turn help contribute and give back to the city and its residents. Nottingham is in need of affordable housing, and the financial contributions from these schemes can help us build new affordable homes for those who need them.”