Overseas students forcing Sheffield rent rises
City housing rents are set to rocket over the next few weeks as thousands of overseas students descend on Sheffield for the new university term.
A shortage of accommodation in the city centre is putting additional pressure on an already strained rentals market.
And with some overseas students receiving state hand-outs of as much as £1,200 per month, it is not only the lower end of the market that is affected.
More than 9,000 international students will enrol at Sheffield’s two universities over the next couple of weeks – and most of them will be looking for homes.
Second and third-year students take out their tenancies from the start of July, and freshers rely primarily on halls of residence. But the overseas contingent arrive for the start of term and then compete for whatever accommodation is available.
“At this time of year we have a huge influx of overseas students and they swallow up all of the city centre stock,” said Peter Lee, lettings director for Blundells.
“We have 280 applicants on our books at the moment and only 13 available properties. They’re going in seconds because demand is so great.”
And the heightened demand is pushing up prices too.
A single-bedroom city-centre apartment that would have fetched £500 per month in 2008 can be let for £555 now – or as much as £595 at this time of year.
Christian Hepplewhite, of lettings agents Lewis Wadsworth, agrees: “There’s currently a shortage of accommodation, particularly in the city centre.
“We don’t have any flats left on our books, but the most recent was a two-bed with parking space at Riverside Apartments. They were asking £695 a month and it took only an hour to go.”
By far the largest group of overseas students is Chinese – at Sheffield University they account for half the total number of internationals: five times more than the next largest group.
And many of the visitors are wealthy in comparison with their British counterparts.
“Some of my most prestigious properties are being rented by students who are coming over with ridiculous amounts of money,” said Dave Gosling, lettings specialist with Saxton Mee.
“I have students renting luxury penthouse apartments at over £1,000 a month!”
Wealthier students also have the advantage of being able to short-circuit the lettings system by paying six months’ or a year’s rental up-front – effectively jumping the queue.
Those with the largest disposable incomes tend to be from China or the Middle East, where the economy is comparatively buoyant.
Some states also allocate grants for students at British universities, giving them as much as £600 a week to fund their studies.
Andrew Bromley, Hallam University’s international student support officer, said budget was still the most significant factor in choosing accommodation.
“Richer students, such as Chinese, tend to pay £1,000 a month to live in St Paul’s or around the central area because it’s most convenient. They can roll out of bed straight into the lecture theatre,” he said.
“Those with less money might look somewhere like Bramall Lane or London Road where rents are lower.”
But there is no sign of a let-up in the soaring cost of renting a home.
The underlying problem is a shortage of suitable properties: “Quite simply, we need more stock,” says Peter Lee.
“Leeds and Manchester have 13,000 to 18,000 properties, but Sheffield city centre didn’t build enough to meet demand. We have only about 5,000 for private rented accommodation.”
“I feel the building industry could drive the whole economy – and we’ve just got to have more housing.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
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