How Elizabeth line unlocked opportunities for affordable student housing

Harris Associates reflects on the impact the Elizabeth Line has had on London's student population, and how it has benefitted the sector.

The Elizabeth Line has unexpectedly had beneficial impacts on London's student population and the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector | PBSA News
The Elizabeth Line has unexpectedly had beneficial impacts on London's student population and the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector.

The opening of London’s Elizabeth Line was a triumphant feat for the city’s commuters and public transport system. However, its milestone has been beneficial outside of London for the UK’s student population. As the demand for student housing increases, the line has helped ease this pressure, with many of the city’s students living in commutable towns. Jamie Harris of Harris Associates reflects on the impact that the Elizabeth Line has had.

By Jamie Harris, Head of Student Accommodation at Harris Associates

The Elizabeth Line, London’s new railway network, is not only transforming the city’s transportation landscape since its official launch one year ago, but it is also creating unprecedented opportunities for affordable student housing and revitalising underserved communities. With its extensive network of stations, the Elizabeth Line is paving the way for a revolution in student accommodation and addressing the affordability crisis faced by students across the capital.

London is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious and desirable student destinations globally. Boasting over 45 Higher Education Institutions, including five renowned Russell Group Universities, the city offers strong employment prospects, attracting both domestic and international students. However, there is a major undersupply of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) beds in London, with over 240,000 full-time students unable to access PBSA, resulting in a student-to-bed ratio of 3.44x, significantly higher than the UK average of 2.5x.

The opening of the Elizabeth Line has unlocked the potential for addressing this undersupply by connecting previously untapped locations for PBSA development. By expanding into Zone 3, 4 and beyond, the Elizabeth Line provides convenient connectivity to major student hubs, making these areas highly desirable for students seeking affordable living options. Notable locations that have emerged as prime spots for student housing include West Ealing, Ealing, Ilford and Canary Wharf.

Ilford, in particular, is experiencing a substantial transformation, driven by the development of a 447-student scheme by Telford Homes and the potential PBSA project named The Jukebox, set to be marketed by Harris Associates, which may provide 304 beds – subject to planning consent. This ambitious undertaking, coupled with transformative regeneration efforts in the area, makes Ilford an enticing destination for students looking for quality accommodation options at a fraction of the cost compared to Central London. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line, a plethora of amenities have poured into the location, from the forthcoming Mercato Metropolitano food market to new bars, clubs and restaurants.

The undersupply of PBSA beds across London has created a significant opportunity for investors. Currently, there are only 98,975 PBSA beds available in the city, resulting in 64% of the total full-time student population unable to access PBSA. Despite the pipeline of over 18,000 beds in planning across London, which represents a potential 19% increase in existing stock, the demand for student accommodation is expected to outstrip supply for the foreseeable future.