THE latest instalment of ‘things are bit tight in the UK’ is the story of students who believed they would have somewhere to live while at Huddersfield University. Sadly for the students, this was not to be. Over to the BBC:
‘More than 160 students have been told to find alternative accommodation after their flats were taken over by the Home Office to house asylum-seekers. The Huddersfield University students had been due to move into the HD1 block of flats for the autumn term.
‘But Prestige Student Living, which manages the site, said the change of use of the 405-bed block of flats was “beyond the control” of the company. It said it had helped students find other accommodation in the town. The flats are a four-minute drive from the campus and 168 students were expected to move in within weeks, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
‘A Home Office spokesperson said the government had “always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure being put on our asylum system, brought about by a significant increase in dangerous and illegal journeys into the country”. They added: “We continue to work across government and with local authorities to identify a range of accommodation options. The government remains committed to engaging with local authorities and key stakeholders as part of this process”.’
That’s reassuring. Do taxpayers count as stakeholders? Do the 100,00 families living in temporary accommodation, which we spoke about yesterday, count as stakeholders?
I checked the Guardian website to see if it had covered this story of students essentially being made homeless to accommodate asylum-seekers, and I couldn’t find any reference to it. However, I did find this gem which told us: ‘Student housing used to be affordable. Why has it become an “asset class” to enrich the already wealthy?’
Here Leilani Farha took aim at investors who see student accommodation as a get rich quick scheme, and there may be some truth to that.
Farha informs us that ‘purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), as it is called in the finance world, has become one of the hottest asset classes in real estate, with forecasters predicting “enormous returns” on investment – all at the expense of students and their paying parents. Some of the largest investment firms and pension and sovereign wealth funds have sensed an opportunity and are invading the space . . . The results of this investor activity can include rapidly escalating rental prices, the creation of luxury units with amenities that students say they don’t need and increasing pressure on the cost of other student housing in the private rental market. In many cases student debt load is as much about housing costs as it is about tuition.’
I am willing to accept that investment funds buying up student accommodation has increased rents. But what investment funds don’t do is turn up at the accommodation they have bought and tell students ‘Sorry, you can’t live here any more, as we have a boatload of asylum-seekers who entered the country illegally that need housing instead.’ I mean maybe the head of Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative asset management firm, would move into students digs on a whim, but I think it is unlikely.
So when we are told by the Guardian that ‘some of the largest investment firms and pension and sovereign wealth funds have sensed an opportunity and are invading the space,’ they don’t mean this literally. The funds are not literally invading space that was designed for students to live in. To see a literal invasion of student space, just go to Huddersfield.