Manchester PBSA sector spotlight – ‘a battle for beds’

Analysing data from HESA for the 2021/22 academic year, there were 2.5 students to every one bed in Manchester.

Manchester PBSA sector spotlight - 'a battle for beds' | PBSA News

Manchester is experiencing a severe shortage of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) as the number of students in the city continues to grow, whilst the supply of new rooms remains years away.

According to a report published by Manchester City Council, the city has one of the largest student populations in Europe. It is estimated over 120,000 people study at Greater Manchester’s five universities.

HESA stats

84,260 students were enrolled at one of Manchester’s three Higher Education Institutions in 2021/22. 55,000 of these had a term time address in Manchester, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Analysing data from HESA for the 2021/22 academic year, there were 2.5 students to every one bed in Manchester, known as the Student to Bed Ratio (STB). With a slow supply of new beds, the STB has not reduced significantly.

Midollo, a specialist advisor to the PBSA market, has carried out an independent analysis of HESA’s data and PBSA need.

They estimate the overall shortfall equates to c. 16,000 beds, means that a large majority of students must rely on the mainstream lettings market. These dwellings have soaring rents and limited availability. All of which continue to increase pressure on local communities.

Lack of affordable housing

The lack of student housing has caused significant stress and anxiety for many students, who must compete for scarce options. Some students have reported having to switch universities, live in neighbouring cities, or share rooms illegally to cope.

The Cities Plan for PBSA

The Council estimates around 750 new PBSA beds are required every year up to 2030 to meet the demand. However, despite this identified requirement the number of new construction starts has rapidly decreased in recent years.

A report found only 13,543 new PBSA rooms were created across the UK in 2023, down from 29,048 in 2020. In Manchester, there were three new starts on site for PBSA schemes in 2023, with 2,153 additional bedspaces having commenced.

The City Council has recognised the challenges and has proposed a pipeline of 20 schemes that could deliver around 12,500 PBSA beds by 2030. These schemes are located close to the university campuses and the Oxford Road Corridor.

However, the Council also acknowledges delivering these schemes is dependent on various factors, such as planning, viability and market conditions.

The Response

According to the research, as of the May 2024 planning committee, consents for new beds in the City have risen in 2023 and 2024. There has been an overall uplift of almost 7,400 new beds planned for development.

This rise in planning consents in Manchester goes some way to meeting the Council’s target of 12,500 new beds by 2030. Midollo expect to see significantly more applications being granted in the months and years to come.

The news comes as The University of Manchester is set to redevelop Fallowfield campus PBSA. The Russell Group institution is progressing an outline planning application to replace the existing student bedrooms at the campus.

This would result in up to 5,400 beds across the campus, increasing the current number of beds by up to 950.