Here it is again — that time of year when the new intake of undergraduates cram their parents’ car, or a hired van, with their precious belongings and new Ikea rugs and posters and head for London.
Traditionally, first-year students get bog-standard, barrack-like halls of residence on the edge of the campus, and moved on to the cheapest, grottiest shared houses available. But today, student accommodation is big business. Parents with deep pockets want better for their offspring and developers have filled the gap in the market with cool apartment blocks in central London.
A flatlet at London’s most expensive bespoke student development in Bloomsbury costs £490 a week and comes with a 32in TV, 50mb internet and a private kitchen with a dishwasher. The cheapest private hall in London is in Bethnal Green, where developer Bethnal Living rents rooms from £99 per week.
The world of private student halls is positively thriving, fuelled largely by the overseas market. A decade ago there were 43 dedicated student halls in the capital, says Simon Thompson, director and co-founder of accommodationforstudents.com. Today that figure has grown to 109, housing more than 20,000 students.
For the kind of money paid for some of these swish digs, a student could easily afford to rent, or even buy, a flat. But private halls remain popular both with students and their parents. “A lot of international students live in private halls,” says Thompson. “Their parents like the security, particularly in a big city. They are not all wealthy. You will find Chinese parents who have been saving for 20 years to allow their child to study abroad and to have the very best they can get.”
Final year students also like the live/work style of rooms at these halls, where they can work without disturbance.
The Hammersmith Palais was bulldozed to make way for a hall for more than 400 students, who pay from £399 a week for a “premium penthouse studio”, all of which are sold out for the new academic year. Residents of Pure Hammersmith enjoy a communal courtyard garden, gym and games room.
Over the last two years, Chapter, part of US property giant Greystar, has developed seven halls housing 4,500 students from 100 nations in a style inspired by the Soho House brand. Its Spitalfields building has a 32nd-floor private bar and an auditorium for performance, practice, and events. Its Highbury building has a private cinema, and Chapter Islington residents have a karaoke room. Rooms start at £249 a week in all three developments.
Chapter’s priciest rooms are on the South Bank, where from £295 a week students can hang out in the sky lounge and do their washing via a phone app linked to the on-site launderette.
Neil Burton, director of corporate services, says Greystar is “actively seeking” new sites and plans to increase its already substantial investment in London.
Berkeley Homes has built 1,300 London student rooms including more than 600 at Goodman’s Fields, Aldgate. Matthew Biddle, managing director of Berkeley First, says to attract the “best talent” to London: “The key is delivering high quality, bespoke and affordable.”
Marcus Roberts, director of Savills, says lucrative student developments help to regenerate areas, and “corralling” students reduces pressure on mainstream housing. Greystar’s Neil Burton believes London universities are so popular, overseas students will double by 2025 — so demand for luxe digs must grow.