A prominent city councillor is forecasting that as further student accommodation is built more houses in Canterbury’s residential streets will become available.
Ben Fitter-Harding believes that over time students will not automatically move into private properties after their first years and will instead opt for purpose-built student flats.
The Conservative, who is chairman of the council’s regeneration and property committee, said the result would be more houses coming on to the non-student let market.
He was responding to comments made by David Kemsley of the Oaten Hill and South Canterbury Association who yesterday (Tuesday) called for a reduction in the number of student lets.
In the last 25 years Canterbury has seen an expansion of its two main universities, Kent and Christ Church, and with it an explosion of the buy-to-let market in the form of houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs).
But many fear the process has limited local people’s access to adequate rental accommodation. Canterbury City Council currently has 2,100 names on its housing waiting list.
Cllr Fitter-Harding is, however, predicting a better future – especially as universities create more of their own student blocks.
He told the Canterbury Journal today (Wednesday): “The purpose-built student accommodation market continues to grow, providing a more attractive offering for students.
“Both the universities themselves and other providers have significantly increased numbers so the default position that students spend their first year in halls and then look for an HMO no longer exists.
“As a result, we expect the total number of HMOs to reduce in line with falling demand.”
Cllr Fitter-Harding added that the council had no powers to remove HMO status from private properties.
Mr Kemsley also estimated that some 900 properties across the district are lying unoccupied because landlords do not want to relinquish them when they are not rented.
“If there really are 900 empty properties then they’re at least contributing to council tax,” Cllr Fitter-Harding added.
“And if Mr Kemsley really does have details of 900 empty HMOs in the district then it would be immensely useful if he shared them with us so that we can take further action.”
See tomorrow’s Canterbury Journal for expert analysis of the student housing situation in Canterbury.