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International student housing is heating up in London — here’s what you should know

international student housing
Intenational students are caught in a "perfect storm" brewing in London's rental market. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

International student housing has been a topic of debate in UK higher education. Now, as they race to return to campus for the new term, students are also racing to land accommodation in London, creating what agents are calling a “perfect storm” of high demand for limited supply.

As students resume in-person learning, they are once again heading to housing hotspots near universities. For example, rental properties in South Kensington, Sloane Square, and Earl’s Court around Imperial College London are being snapped up by students flying in. Here’s what you need to know about the international student housing situation in London right now.

international student housing

The sharp rise in demand is credited to the sudden return of students who have been stuck at home due to the pandemic. Source: Justin Tallis/AFP

Students are rushing to secure rentals

The expansion of the UK student housing market has not always been viewed in a positive light. Partly because it encourages private student accommodation providers — who typically do not have agreements with any university — to build more high-rise buildings, sometimes drawing irk from locals. Beyond that, the growth in international student housing demand raises questions about quality and safety.

Amelia Greene, a director at Saville’s told Bloomberg that agents have seen rental applications double in the past few weeks. An estimated 70% of them are for international student housing. “It almost feels like we’ve got two years’ worth of students all wanting to move in September,” Greene commented. As a result…

International student housing is getting more expensive

This spike in rental demand has driven rent up 15% in the past two months, according to David Salvi of London estate agency Hurford Salvi Carr. While this recovers the city’s rental to pre-pandemic levels, it means international students will have to fork out more to secure a property in time for term.

It’s a situation that’s driving many to desperate measures: signing a contract before even seeing the place, paying 12 months of rent upfront. Agents are conducting viewings on video now. At the same time, it widens the wedge of inequality for students without access to a well of financial resources.