As northern cities go, Liverpool has traditionally been one of the biggest and most lucrative, and in the last few years, it has started to become a powerhouse once again, with regeneration opportunities allowing the city to reinvent itself and become a centre for innovation, business and study once again.
The last of these has helped to fuel growth in investment in student property in the city, which has seen room numbers swell over the course of five years.
But does Liverpool need investment in the property market’s most lucrative of assets?
Rising student numbers
Liverpool may not be Manchester in terms of the size of its student body, but it is growing considerably as more and more students are attracted to the city, meaning that there is a strong level of demand for properties in the student market.
The city has three main universities – University of Liverpool, John Moores University and Hope University – and two specialist higher education establishments; Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. In the past couple of years, the number of people who are studying at the main establishments has climbed impressively.
In the current academic year, it was reported, there are as many as 60,000 students studying at universities in Liverpool. This is markedly higher than the 50,000 that was recorded in the year before, and it’s a figure that is only likely to rise in the September 2017 academic year and beyond.
The rise in student numbers in Liverpool has contributed to a stronger level of demand for property as well, with Mistoria Group reporting at the end of 2016 that there had been a 37 per cent increase in demand for purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) in this academic year. This is fuelled by the fact 60 per cent of people who come to Liverpool to study are looking for student accommodation, meaning the majority in any given year need to find somewhere to live.
Continued high levels of investment in quality student housing in Liverpool has driven demand in the city.
In 2016, a report by Merrion determined that there is a shortfall of student rooms in Liverpool and that there is still room for the market to grow.
“Based on the industry accepted norm that 68% of students seek managed bed spaces (a demand pool of 48,966 Liverpool students), current provision in Liverpool for the 2017 academic year of 27,066 rooms indicates a shortfall of 21,900* managed bed spaces.
“Even if the 6,892 rooms with planning consent but not started or working their way currently through the planning system are built out, there would remain a shortfall of 15,008 rooms in the Liverpool student market. Our conclusion is that there remains considerable scope for further development in the Liverpool market, underpinned by the continued expansion and investment plans of the universities themselves.”
As well as demand for properties generally, another factor that influences the need for more student homes being built across Liverpool is that of quality. For decades, student properties were always viewed as being dingy, dull flats in poor condition. However, in recent times, demand has dictated that this has had to change.
No longer do undergraduates want to live somewhere that they’ve only selected because it’s the cheapest option. People want something that complements their lifestyle and improves their university experience, with amenities and facilities high on the list, along with generally better quality builds.
This is where PBSA has come into play in cities like Liverpool. Over the past few years, regeneration has meant property specialists such as Experience Invest and the developers they work with have managed to come into cities like Liverpool and change the face of the student property market, replacing out of date stock with homes built specifically with students in mind.
Facilities such as fast internet connections, strong community links and places to socialise and a location that allows easy access to their place of study are all high on the list of desires students have for their properties, and the PBSA has looked to address these with new designs and developments.
And as the student number continues to rise in Liverpool for years to come, this need for better quality, better targeted investment and development will only be even more prevalent.