Durham’s housing market is “out of control”

By and

A Hamptons study recently found that the cost of renting rose by 12% in the year to August – the biggest increase since the estate agent started its survey in 2014.

In the North East, Newcastle buy-to-let landlords have seen the average rent of a Newcastle rental property rise by 7.4% in the last 12 months, according to local estate agent Bricks & Mortar.

However, Palatinate analysis from the last three years suggests that Durham’s rents are increasing at a much faster rate.

In 2021, the most common price bracket of properties on StuRents, at this point in the year, was £120-140ppw. In 2022, it was £140-159. However, on the 22nd of October 2023, the most common price bracket was £180-199. £180-199 has been the most common price bracket on StuRents since Palatinate started recording this data three weeks ago – as £140-159 was for all weeks recorded in 2022.

29% of accommodation priced at £180-199pppw did not include bills.  The second most common rent category was £200pppw+: 40% of options in this category also had no bills included.

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) said: “We know that the number of students looking for accommodation for the next academic year will be fewer as we have lowered our intake in the last two years following the increased intakes of 2020 and 2021 due to unexpected shifts in A-level grading during the Covid pandemic.

“However, we recognise that finding the right accommodation can be a busy and stressful time  and for many students this has been exacerbated by the rise in cost of living and the recent above inflation rise in the cost of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

 “That’s why we continue to work extremely hard to keep increases for University accommodation as low as possible – at or below inflation – while also investing significantly in programmes such as the Hardship Fund, and the Durham Grant Scheme (DGS), which supports students from low-income families. For example, last year we increased the DGS by over 13 per cent.”

“We have established our online Housing Hub to point our students to the information and support they need when looking for accommodation. The University will provide support and guidance to all of our students who want it in finding accommodation for next academic year.”

 Durham’s new Housing Hub, a webpage offering students information about the housing market, states “Durham has a variety of rental properties with varying rent rates, and it is, therefore, possible to pay a reasonable rent if you are prepared to consider all the options.”

“You can’t information and signpost your way out of rents going up 50% in two years.”

Matthew boulton

However, despite energy bills going down this year and a lower student intake, rents continue to rise. Matthew Boulton from ‘Get My Deposit Back’ has been running college housing talks for the past month.

Speaking to Palatinate, he said that the housing market in Durham is “out of control! If the University is relying on the goodwill of landlords and agents not to exploit the market, then I think they’re being very naive. (…) I wasn’t getting good feedback on the housing hub at the talks. A lot of people hadn’t heard of it. You can’t information, and signpost your way out of rents going up by 50% in two years. That’s not an adequate response.”

 One of the biggest landlords in Durham, Loc8Me had no properties under £140ppw on the market on Sunday. Prices are also high. For example, one Loc8Me house – 2 Ferens Close in Claypath – has increased in price by 52% over the past three years. For the 2021/2022 academic year, Loc8Me charged £126ppw. For the 2024/2025 academic year, the price is £189ppw: a 50% increase within just three years.

Many Frampton & Roebuck properties are also rising in price by over 10% for the next academic year. One notable case is a property on Moatside Mews, which was advertised for £120pppw in 2022/2023, as a 3-bedroom house with a study. The property has now been relisted for 2023/2024 as a 4-bedroom house, advertising no study, and charging £200ppw. No bills are included.

Nicholas Humphreys has also hiked their rents. A property on Malvern Villas in Gilesgate cost £120ppw last year, and has now been increased to £175ppw with bills included.

A pre-release 2024/2025 list for JW Wood, seen by Palatinate, also indicated sharp increases; many properties’ rents have increased by 40% or more. For example, 60 Claypath cost £120ppw for the 2023/2024 academic year, but will be £180ppw for the next academic year. 8 Old Elvet cost £140pppw for this academic year, but will cost £200ppw for next year. 16A Church Street is rising from £140ppw to £201.92ppw, while 11a North Road is increasing from £115pppw this year to £165pppw next year. 

None of the agents mentioned above responded to Palatinate’s request for comment. Not all properties have been released yet, with many agents releasing in waves.

A recent study carried out by Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm, found that fewer than one in 10 beds in major university cities are now affordable to the average student in receipt of maintenance loans and grants. Durham was listed as one of the university towns with minimal or zero-bed spaces at prices below the average maintenance loan. This includes Durham University’s own student accommodation. 

The University is the biggest landlord in Durham: responsible for 38% of accommodation options in DH1 in the 2022/2023 academic year according to their own calculations. Self-catered college accommodation with a shared bathroom costs £164 per week; however, students assigned to catered colleges do not have this option. If they want to live in university-owned accommodation they must pay £234.77 a week. Only 7 of Durham’s 17 colleges offer self-catered accommodation.

Last year, Durham increased their rent by 10.3% despite student loans only increasing by 2.8%.  The rent increase was the third highest among the Russell Group, according to The Telegraph, although it was below 12.3% RPI.

Recently the University has increased the value of the Durham Grant Scheme by over 13% in light of the cost of living crisis; Durham was one of only two Russell Group Universities to significantly increase bursaries in the last three years.

Matthew Boulton from ‘GetMyDeposit’ back has been holding housing talks with Durham colleges. In an interview with Palatinate, he said: “Obviously, what’s driving the overheated market is landlords pushing the boat out more and more (…) And it doesn’t really seem like the University is doing enough. (….) The students are the market and you guys have market power.”

Durham’s Housing Strategy Group said: “Especially in the current weather conditions, please remember that you do not need to queue at letting agents outside normal office hours to secure accommodation. Remember that all agents and landlords on the Code of Practice are working to eliminate the need for, and practice of, students queuing overnight outside of Letting Agent offices.”

“Queues do sometimes form outside an agent’s office, for example an hour or two before their standard opening hours. Although this is typical of the student lettings season in Durham, especially for those agencies with a physical presence in the city, we understand that it could be concerning. Queues outside a specific agent, are not an indication that the whole student housing market has opened, they are specific to that agent and their properties.”

“The University has said there are enough beds. But how many affordable beds are there?

dan lonsdale

Dan Lonsdale, SU President, remarked in a statement this week: “We know that the housing crisis, both here and nationally, is as much about price as it is supply. The University has said there are enough beds. But how many affordable beds are there? We have asked, repeatedly, and everyone refuses to answer.”

Durham University’s Housing Strategy Group said: ”If you are looking for a specific size of property within a specific area, this will narrow your options. Being flexible with your searches may help you find the house you want at a price you can afford.”

Lonsdale went on to say: “Durham University sets the rent for over a third of all student beds and, by the end of 2027, it wants to set rent for 45% of them. We want Durham University to provide an assessment of how its dominant position in the market and the price point of its accommodation offer is impacting competition and price in the wider Durham student rental market.

“We believe this problem cannot be properly tackled without addressing the high cost of Durham University’s college accommodation.”

A significant portion of Durham’s housing market is now taken up by PBSAs. 

Along with 2-4 new colleges, supporting new PBSA developments was named by Durham in 2017 and 2023 as one of the ways to manage the University’s expansion. 

“We believe this problem cannot be properly tackled without addressing the high cost of Durham University’s college accommodation.”

dan lonsdale, su president

However, PBSAs are one of the more expensive accommodation forms; while prices for the next academic year have not yet been released, Student Castle in Claypath, charged over £200pppw for this academic year. Unite Durham cost £179pppw, and Gilesgate’s Prestige Students prices started at £174 last year.

 PBSAs are relatively new to Durham. According to a Housing Policy Debate study, the first large private PBSA in Durham, Unite’s Elvet Studios, was built in 2013 – followed by another 17 PBSA developments over the next seven years. However, a PwC study found that demand for this type of accommodation is high. At the start of the 2022/2023 academic year, all PBSAs in Durham were full, and in May last year only one block had availability – ‘availability’ could amount to just one room – for the 2024/2025 academic year.

In a recent press release, the University told Palatinate: “Earlier this year, it undertook a refresh of its ten-year Strategy, in which it reaffirmed it would manage its student take and accommodation mindful of its impact on Durham City. In coming years the University will not grow its student numbers significantly, but will diversify its social and international mix.”

Recently, Durham has published a refreshed plan in which the target for the number of students in college accommodation has dropped from 50-55% to 40-45%.

Due to higher A-Level grades during COVID-19, the University has already exceeded their goal for 21,500 students by 2026/2027 – however, the student intake was lower this year.

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Durham University, said: “We are confident in our analysis that there will be enough accommodation in Durham to meet student demand for the academic year 2024/25.  

“This analysis was produced by the multi-agency Housing Strategy Group, which I chair, and which brings together representatives from the University, Durham Students’ Union, Durham County Council, City of Durham Parish Council and local residents. It is a detailed piece of work and we have high confidence in the data.  

“In addition, we continue to engage with private landlords and letting agents to ensure our students’ needs are being put first, including the introduction the first phase of a voluntary Student Lettings Code of Practice.

“There is more to do, and we remain committed to working together with our students, the city, landlords and agents.”

Image: PalTV/ Dylan Rana

8 thoughts on “Durham’s housing market is “out of control”

  • In almost all publications dealing with the problems of students in Durham, no one mentions the reasons that led to such a difficult situation in our beautiful city.
    The basic question that comes to mind is how many students can a small city like Durham absorb?
    The local population is around 48,000, and we have, according to official figures, 22,500 students. Please lets to compare this to Newcastle. The local population is around 830,000 and the student population is around approximately 65,000. However according to official UCAS figures, even less: 42,000 (https://www.ucas.com/study-in/study-newcastle).
    Durham University officials and Durham Council ignored warnings and pushed they plans to increase students number in Durham.
    Now we lost so many family houses and we have messed up our city.

    Reply
  • Durham city is not able to accommodate this number of students, it is to small. If you don’t want to damage further the University and our city, because Durham society is already damaged, the university officials have to consider different plans.

    Reply
  • The situation in Durham is worse than I have seen anywhere else in the country. It puts immense stress on the shoulders of young people taking their first steps as independent adults. Private landlords do their utmost to take advantage of the situation, often providing poor quality properties at ridiculously inflated rates. Then there is the 52 week tie-in contracts. Landlords and estate agents know full well that students are only present 38 weeks of the year, yet they force students to take a 52 week contract and pay an additional £2,500 on average in rent for a room that is empty over the summer once the students have returned to their families. In addition, house contracts usually make all students jointly and severally liable for the rent of any other student in their house, so if one of your friends gives up and goes home, you get lumbered with their rent bill!!! To make matters worse, they insist that your parents act as the guarantor for their student, making the parents not only liable for the rent of their own student, but also legally liable for the rent of the others in their house. Estate agents intentionally release all of their properties at once or ask all their signees to attend on the same day to make queues appear outside their shops, in order to encourage and fuel panic and frenzy amongst vulnerable young people. The whole situation is disgusting. It stinks of corruption, greed and taking advantage of young people. Shame on all of you, where are your ethics???

    Reply
  • In addition to the exploitation of students, the situation is also out of control for city residents with the ever increasing spread of registered and unregistered HMO forcing families out of the city as family homes are bought up by student landlords with the prospect of approx £50k rent per annum. This is negatively changing the nature of the community. The university needs to provide enough attractive and affordable options for students for this to change.

    Reply
  • Today we will discuss key strategies for improving academic report writing skills. I chose this topic only because international students often face this issue. Generally speaking, I require them to focus on the overall direction first, and then focus on local modifications. The strategy is to focus on overall coherence first, and then modify the content of each paragraph. Generally speaking, dealing with a wide range of structural issues first and then spending time modifying each paragraph is a more efficient approach. Structural editing can transform a report. You should not spend any effort on improving paragraphs until you make a broader decision on report ghostwriting https://www.lxws.net/particular.php?id=178 , such as which parts to keep or delete.

    Reply
    • Who is st*pid enough to post this unrelated nonsense on a page about the housing market in Durham???

      Reply
  • The same has happened to students in Bournemouth. The students are following the same strategy and being abused financially. Locals are paying extortionate rent to greedy gate keeper lardy letting agents such as Fox ‘s and Leader’s who are like Bankers with evictions with little regard for making many people homeless. It’s despicable and governments are all in.

    Reply
    • Durham has quite unique situation. It is too small to accommodate 23k (or even more students).

      Reply

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