Wealthiest renters in West Hampstead?

I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour of the new student accommodation on Blackburn Road a couple of weeks ago.

Bedroom in shared flat

The building opens on September 1st, though the majority of students move in to West Hampstead a fortnight later. Contrary to my assertion some months ago, there are some British students, though as of two weeks ago the split was about 50/50. There is also a high share of postgraduate students taking up spaces.

It’s impressive inside, as it should be – the students are paying top-whack to live amongst us whampers. There’s also a rather nice courtyard area, which in good weather should be a good place to sit/lie out with a book.

I was shown, unsurprisingly, one of the nicest flats – on the north-east corner of the building with tall glass windows in the communal area. These flats are shared by eight people, each of whom has an en-suite bedroom while they share the living room/kitchen area.

There are also studio apartments with a self-contained kitchen area. I much preferred these myself. The one I saw, which was a larger one, was actually pretty spacious although it was unfinished!

Weekly rents start at £199 and go up to £259 for the “penthouse”. More than many people’s mortgages, though that includes concierge, secure bike parking, communal areas, a screening room and the all-important superfast broadband. TV licences are extra (and of course streaming television content through your laptop requires a licence). Cleaning services are also available at an extra charge. Using the power of Twitter I’ve put together some top tips for the students, although my definitive top 10 tips are going into their Welcome Pack, so I won’t spoil the surprise for any students reading this now!

Dining area in large flat
There’s another identical kitchen unit out of sight
The view of the Travis Perkins yard
Courtyard chess

I got £199 problems but the rent ain’t one

…at least you’d hope not if you’re a student in West Hampstead next year.

You’ll have seen the large building going up on Blackburn Road over the past few months. Rising nine storeys at his highest point (furthest away from the tube lines and West End Lane), I’m sure most of you know that it’s going to house some 350 students starting in September 2013.

Students – especially en masse – can be a contentious populace. They lower the average age and lend an area a lively, more fashionable feel. Yet, they can also be noisy, messy, and do not always contribute positively to their neighbourhood. Those of us who’ve lived away from home as students can probably see ourselves reflected in both sides of the coin.

This particular bunch of students might consider themselves lucky to live in West Hampstead, as many of us do. Or they might feel it’s too far out of central London and lacks the range of nightlife and student-friendly cafés and restaurants they might get in town.

What’s fairly certain is that they’ll be relatively well off. The company’s website is a bit sparse on details, but this site (clearly targeting the international market) has a lot more info and having read it, I’m not so sure that these students will be filling up the Bridge Café. Unless egg and chips is all they can afford having paid for the relative luxury of their shared flat.

Rents in the new block start at £199 a week. That’s to live in a cluster flat, sharing communal facilities with 5-8 other students. It includes all bills, TV, WiFi etc.. That still seems like quite a lot for students, although a very quick trawl of the competition, both private operators such as Urbanest and universities’ own halls of residence, suggests that although it’s high-end, it’s not ridiculous.

The Blackburn Road development will also include a private gym, meeting rooms, an in-house cinema (!!), quiet rooms, common room and laundry facilities. There’ll be a concierge team, a 24 hour helpline, CCTV and secure electronic access. If you’re feeling flush you can pay more for in-room cleaning, laundry service, and “other technology upgrades”, which definitely either means you get a pet robot or faster WiFi.

I’m certainly not saying it’s bad value for the quality of housing, but I do wonder which students will be able to afford it. Let me mention again: it has an in-house cinema! Hopefully some of these new whampers will venture out into the big bad world – maybe even to Kilburn! My guess is that we’ll be welcoming a lot more international students with iMacs and credit cards than scruffy 19 year-olds from the provinces with beaten-up laptops and a £10 overdraft on their Lloyds-TSB student account.