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10% slump in student properties let, admits leading sector player

One of Britain’s largest purpose built student accommodation providers says there’s been a 10 per cent slump in the number of bed spaces let across the sector - and only 80 per cent of students actually checked in since September.

Unite Students - which owns, builds and manages its accommodation - says it’s let 88 per cent of bed spaces across its portfolio for the 2020/21 academic year contrasted with 98 per cent a year earlier. Checked-in occupancy is 80 per cent, having been just 70 per cent in early October. 

More students are expected to check-in from January.


Rental arrears for the first term are broadly in line with previous years.

Richard Smith, Unite’s chief executive, says: “We have continued to welcome students to our properties over the past month, reflecting the value they place on the learning, socialising and independence that university provides. 

“We know from our recent student survey that the majority of students are committed to continuing their studies and returning to their current student accommodation in the New Year and we look forward to welcoming them back in January. 

“For those students that want to stay over the Christmas period, we will be fully operational. We will continue doing all we can to help keep students and our staff safe throughout this challenging period.”

Meanwhile Unite Students has also announced an exchange of contracts to acquire a new 800-bed development site in Paddington. 

The scheme is targeted for delivery for the 2023/24 academic year, subject to planning approval; the development will target a BREEAM Excellent rating and incorporate a range of design features to reduce its carbon footprint, the company says.

CEO Smith says: ”This is a rare opportunity to acquire a zone 1 central London site in an excellent location, which will help to meet the growing accommodation needs of our London-based university partners. We remain confident in the growth outlook for London over the next decade, reflecting the global reputation of its universities and a positive outlook for growth in UK and international student numbers.”


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