By Lilith Foster-Collins
January saw no significant release of additional student housing, according to data collated by Palatinate.
On January 1st, 167 student houses were available on the online housing site Sturents for the next academic year. By January 31st just 68 houses remained, with a steady decline throughout the month.
Both Harringtons and Bill Free Homes confirmed they did not release any houses in January. Bill Free Homes explained: “We may bring a few newly purchased properties to the market but these would either be developed properties where the details are still being finalised, newly purchased properties or properties from Landlords who are new to us.”
Of the houses available at the beginning of the month, 28 were priced at less than £100 per person per week (pppw). By the end of the month this was just two houses. The vast majority of houses in January were priced at more than £140pppw.
Bill Free Homes commented: “This year we did not plan to release until early November, however we had 1062 registrations on the website]by 18th October 2021 and were left with no choice but to follow in other agents footsteps and release the properties.”
“We have found that student housing, or the lack thereof, has been a huge problem for the student population this year.”
The estate agents that Palatinate spoke to suggested that the January housing release is a myth. Neither Harringtons nor Bill Free Homes have ever had a “second release”.
Bill Free Homes said “We are well aware of students believing that there is a “second release” in January but this is not something BillFreeHomes have ever done nor are we aware of any other agents who do this.”
“Most landlords would not be comfortable with us holding their properties back whilst the majority of houses are snapped up in the Autumn term in fear of being left behind.”
There were very few larger properties available by the end of January, with no seven beds available during January. Most properties advertised were studios, one beds or two beds.
The availability of houses also differs by area. On 31st January, no houses were available for the next academic year in either the Whinney Hill area or Clapypath.
Bill Free Homes offered advice to students. “The best advice we can now give to students who are still looking for properties is to be as flexible as possible. You will often find you get far more for your money by going ten minutes further away from the Centre.”
“Most importantly we need to ensure the seemingly false rumour of a second release is stopped, this is highly unfair on students (mostly first years) who do not know how the rental market in Durham works.”
In November, Palatinate revealed that the rush to sign student houses starts as early as late October. The number of student houses available on the online housing site Sturents rose until October 26th, and then began to decline steadily until November. At its peak, 967 houses were available.
Students expressed how the rush had affected them. First-years described the rush as “frantic” and “stressful”. Harringtons acknowledged the problems with the housing rush:
“Whilst we try to hold off with releasing the houses too early, to give the first year students better chances to find strong groups, (who then don´t fall apart later) and to give our current tenants the option to stay on for their final year, the students essentially determine when letting season begins as it is the high number of enquiries that lead to the properties being marketed.”
Students have also faced increasing rents in houses advertised for the next academic year. Data collected by Palatinate shows that on the 26th October, the median rent price of houses was between £120-140 pppw. In October, more than 42% of houses cost over £140pppw.
One landlord Palatinate spoke to confirmed that prices had increased, and said that while there are multiple factors, “the shortage of houses in Durham City Center is also the major [reason] why they’re getting increased.”
Image by Anna Marshall