DEBATE about the amount of student housing in Exeter has been reignited after plans were unveiled for a £17m luxury development.
Portland House, at the junction of Longbrook Street and New North Road, is being refurbished by Vita Student, which said it chose the city because of the reputation of the university, rising student numbers and the under supply of high-quality property.
The former office building will be converted into 161 luxury studios and two-bedroom apartments, ready for students to move into during September 2014.
Vita Student was founded in 2012 by luxury developer Vita Ventures, which has been targeting Russell Group university cities across the UK.
Trevor Moore, chief executive of Vita Ventures, said: "The recent achievements of the University of Exeter mean that students are flocking to the city and accommodation is at a premium. Subsequently Exeter was an obvious choice for our next target.
"Investor requirement for student property like ours is at an all-time high. The rate at which all our projects have sold demonstrates that our model is successfully addressing the market demand."
UK and international investors will be able to start buying the studios later this month, with prices starting at £77,950. The developers are confident of enough demand from students looking for a place to rent, offering investors an assured seven per cent rental yield for the first five years.
But visitors to the Echo's website and Facebook page have questioned the need for more student accommodation.
Jonny Tucker said: "Getting ridiculous now with student accommodation, come on Exeter and look after our own inhabitants. Crying out for smaller properties."
DramaQueen50 added: "More student accommodation???? Why not convert it into affordable flats for the young people who live, work and pay taxes in Exeter but can't afford to rent privately or buy their own house? Youngsters have hardly any chance of starting off on their own these days, there are only certain types of people who are offered council homes so why not offer these to non students for a change?"
Helen Delamer commented on Facebook: "People who were born here and have lived here all their lives are being forced out of Exeter because they are unable to buy or afford the rent. Why not build more student housing on the university campus and leave Exeter for Exonians who want to live and work here?"
Emma Aplin added: "Another waste of money and valuable space that will be empty for more than three months a year."
The new accommodation will feature fitted kitchens, en-suite bathrooms and a space-saving foldable double bed with integrated sofa.
The apartments also include free high-speed 100MB broadband, Wi-Fi and a flat screen smart TV.
Student numbers at Exeter have grown to more than 19,000, with around a quarter coming from overseas.
The growing student body has been attributed to the university's rapid rise up the UK league tables, culminating in it being named The Sunday Times University of the Year in 2012.
The project at Portland House brings the total number of Vita Student apartments in the UK up to 929, following previous launches in Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol.