New frontiers of studentification: the commodification of student housing as a driver of urban change

Studentification has permeated policy-orientated agendas on community cohesion in different national contexts, and is of increasing public relevance at a time of changing systems of higher education. To date, studentification has been treated as a process of urban change that leads to the physical downgrading of neighbourhoods and social conflict, tied to concentrations of low-quality student houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Our aim in this paper is to widen conceptual understandings of studentification, drawing upon a novel study of this process in Loughborough, UK. Focussing on the Kingfisher estate, we provide the first investigation of the formation of a studentified neighbourhood, using data from administrative datasets to track tenurial transformations from owner-occupation to private rental shared housing. Our analyses are deepened from a survey of student preferences for accommodation, and interviews with local community representatives, to reveal a production-consumption interface for high-quality student housing in Kingfisher. We argue that this is illustrative of a new frontier of studentification, which emphasises the volatility of student housing markets. Crucially, these dynamics are having a significant influence on broader changing urban geographies, such as the de-studentification of other neighbourhoods, and the overall supply of (affordable) housing. Our paper concludes by arguing for a wider conceptualisation of studentification that does not inherently view the process as a harbinger of downgraded urban environments. From a policy perspective, our research stresses the urgent need for different place-specific solutions and policy interventions to mitigate the challenges of studentification.