PLANNING chiefs have vowed to launch a fresh crackdown on ‘speculative’ student housing.

In a move aimed at popping the ‘bubble’ of lucrative student accommodation, strict new rules would curb developments not backed by at least one of the city’s two universities.

Oxford City Council’s proposal comes after residents complained about a private company going door-to-door, offering to buy their homes so they could be used for students.

Now the authority has proposed strict rules that would require all new student accommodation to be ‘tied to students of Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University only’.

City council planning boss Alex Hollingsworth said: “Speculative student housing is having a lot of money thrown at it right now.

“It is seen as a very lucrative market and there is a bit of a bubble right now, but we want to restrict it.

“We will encourage student housing that is associated with our two universities – to take the pressure off general housing – but will discourage accommodation from other providers.”

The proposals to curb private student accommodation are included in the latest draft Local Plan, the blueprint for development, which was published on Thursday.

In the document, the council argues ‘ there is already significant amount of purpose-built student accommodation occupied by students at educational institutions other than the universities’.

It adds: “This compromises the ability of the universities to house their students and leads to greater competition in the general housing market.”

While Oxford University and its colleges have brought forward several major accommodation schemes on their own sites in recent years, Oxford Brookes has said it must work with private providers because it does not own as much land.

Frontier Estates is one of the developers building new student accommodation in Headington. It recently knocked down four homes on the corner of London Road and Latimer Road to replace them with a block of 167 student rooms, attracting criticism from residents.

Company director Mike Mansell said the scheme was supported by Oxford Brookes and would not have gone ahead without its endorsement. Student accommodation was no more lucrative than other types of developments because companies usually paid residents above-market rates for their homes, he claimed.

Mr Mansell said: “We still end up with the same profit margins but the people selling their houses get more, that is the reason they are often willing to sell. I think it’s dangerous to try and stop that because really you are just stopping free enterprise.

“We are also required to replace any residential homes lost, so it makes more efficient use of land.”

Student accommodation was ‘very popular’ in the investment market because it was seen as offering reliable returns, he added.

“American funds are buying up UK property and they all want a slice of student accommodation for their portfolios. With the privatisation of student loans, most universities are also having to provide more and better accommodation and that has made the market popular.” The Local Plan is due to be consulted on this summer.