Student flats good for city

The former Busy Bees supermarket is earmarked for redevelopment
The former Busy Bees supermarket is earmarked for redevelopment

New build or converted student accommodation in Lancaster will help free up much needed low cost family housing.

Coun Janice Hanson, Lancaster City Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration says the housing market in the city must be re-balanced, and that city centre student accommodation was also good for business.

She said: “Over recent years student numbers at both Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria have shown a steady increase.

“Combined with the introduction of buy-to-let mortgages in the early 2000s, this has had the impact of housing supply being restricted due to traditional family housing being bought up by private landlords and converted to student lets.

“We need to rebalance the housing market and, over the longer term, dedicated student accommodation will help to ease demand for the traditional shared house, increasing the supply of much-needed low cost family housing, particularly in south Lancaster.

“Many of the buildings which we are seeing being converted, or sites for new build, are those where there are few alternative solutions and they would continue to lie empty and potentially become derelict.”

Coun Hanson said the increase in city centre student accommodation is “beneficial for the district’s economy with an increased number of consumers for services from local shops and businesses.”

A recent planning application for student accommodation above the former Busy Bee supermarket in Damside Street sparked debate on social media.

Many are saying the buildings should be used for affordable housing for local residents.

A surge in new student accommodation has been a contencious issue in Lancaster for a number of years, but Coun Hanson said it had helped to free up traditional housing and made prices more realistic.

She added: “It is private developers, not the council, who are providing these properties and demand is driven by what the housing market requires.

“According to local estate agents the increase in new housebuilding is having a positive impact on affordability throughout the housing market as it has stabilised house price inflation locally.

“A wide range of housing is now available at more realistic prices because of increased choice and numbers available.”