Durham’s private housing market reaching “breaking point”


Durham’s private housing market is “now at breaking point”, Durham Students’ Union (DSU) have said, with students facing a double-edged sword of increasing rent costs and abnormally early housing releases. 

The annual rush to secure properties for the next academic year may have already begun this month, with over 100 private homes already being listed for the 2023/24 academic year at relatively high prices. 

Palatinate analysis has found that as of the 24th of September, there were 104 homes being advertised on the search platform StuRents, with only seven of these homes being priced at less than £120 per person per week (pppw).

70% of the homes listed are managed by the Durham branch of student lettings agency Loc8me. While most of their advertised properties do come with full bills included, students will have to pay anywhere from £124pppw to as much as £212pppw for one of their properties, depending on where they choose to live in the city.

On the 24th of September, another letting agent, Complete Student Homes, was advertising nine priorities to rent in highly sought-out locations including The Viaduct and Elvet Crescent, close to the university’s main site. However, eight of these properties cost at least £185pppw and none of them come with bills included.

Palatinate have contacted both Loc8me and Complete Student Homes for comment about the timing of their housing releases and the pricing of their properties this year. 

Students will have to pay anywhere from 124pppw to as much as £212pppw

Students living in private accommodation this year meanwhile are being warned of unexpected costs due to the rise in energy bill prices, despite the Government recently announcing that household energy bills will be capped at an average of £2,500 this year. 

Those on ‘no bills included’ contracts are likely to pay much more for their energy this year, but even those on contracts with ‘bills included’ are at risk if they breach their ‘fair usage’ policies, which allocate tenants with a restricted amount of utilities they can use for the year. 

Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed of Unipol, a student housing charity, told The Guardian that students should “get advice on anything you do not understand. If you have obligations to pay for energy over a certain threshold, make sure to record regular meter readings and ask the landlord about what it will cost. In a shared house, housemates need to communicate and work together to manage this, and budget together for any excess payments required.”

The current crisis has prompted the DSU to issue a statement, saying that the housing market is “now at breaking point”. The officers’ statement said that “the University has a clear duty of care to its students regarding housing, whether in university-managed accommodation or not, as they have been brought to Durham by the University.”

The DSU have “pushed the University to act on this issue and recognise the gravity of the situation”, and will “continue to push the University to ensure that no student is without accommodation in this, or any other, year”. 

“the University has a clear duty of care to its students regarding housing, whether in university-managed accomodation or not”

durham students’ union

The DSU says they are working with the University to see how the issues affecting the housing market can be resolved longer-term. Durham University has also established a helpline to support students in finding accommodation this year, with students urged to email the accommodation office to book an appointment.

In a further statement, a University spokesperson said that “We are aware of the pressures on staff and students caused by, among other factors, rising energy and food costs and are actively exploring options for additional support.”

Durham is not alone in experiencing problems with its housing markets in general, as cities across the UK are experiencing shortages in rooms for students, such as in Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol.

Increased demand has partly been driven by larger numbers of 18-year-olds applying to and being accepted into universities in recent years, with rising admissions numbers driven further by grade inflation due to cancelled exams in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

However, The issues affecting Durham’s housing market have been building for some time. Last year, students had to contend with one of the earliest rushes for private housing, while Palatinate investigations also revealed that there have been several problems with the quality and safety of some private student homes. 

Image: John Whitehouse

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2 thoughts on “Durham’s private housing market reaching “breaking point”

  • Due to the 1st year of teacher assessed grades for Covid now being 3rd years & graduating this year, there will be c.750 less students next year than this.

    Don’t panic, look for properties in the new year, make the landlords sweat for once.

  • As well as the aforementioned sites, students should consider Spareroom/Student Spareroom. We advertise on there and there are a good number of reasonably priced houses especially in the Framwellgate Moor (near University Hospital) and Gilesgate areas. 20 minutes’ walk/5 minutes by bus.
    I am a Durham alumna and we look after our 2 houses and our students, being meticulous about quick maintenance/repairs and simply replacing anything that can’t be repaired. We’ve also stuck with decision to guarantee bill costs for the whole year. Yes we have a Fair use Policy but unless usage is utterly outrageous we never invoke it. Parents often thank us at the end of the year for being responsible landlords!
    Student Landlords are not all bad!


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