Accommodations have a valuable role to play in a student’s life. This is where they will be eating, sleeping, and studying for a good chunk of their time as they earn their degree. As such, where students live can affect their overall university experience as well as have an impact on their academic performance.
To understand how on- and off-campus accommodations are changing, this article aims to discuss current student housing statistics, from the value of the student housing market and average rental costs to student preferences and expectations. The topics covered here should be able to help student housing providers and students alike to get a grasp of the state of the industry and where it is headed. Moreover, this can serve as a good resource for incoming college and university enrollees who have yet to look for student housing.
Much like other industries, the student housing market is steered by the forces of demand and supply. In this case, the demand is impelled by the staggering enrollment rates recorded in leading academic destinations such as the United States (Duffin, 2020). The supply, on the other hand, is propped up by institutional, international, and domestic property developers.
As student enrollment continues to soar at a higher velocity, developers have put in a shift on building student housing properties to supplement the accelerated demand (Savills, 2019). Despite their best efforts and increased development activities, however, the demand and supply of student accommodation are not in equilibrium (Savills, 2019). And, this has been the overarching theme for the student accommodation industry for years.
This section aims to shed more light on the student housing market. It compiles key data on student accommodation market value, investments, and the demand and supply of housing in the academic arena. Moreover, it offers insights into leading student housing developers and managers in some of the popular global academic destinations.
Global Market Value of Student Housing
The 2018 student housing buyer profile constituted private capital buyers (66%), institutional and equity funds (21%), cross-border foreign capital buyers (9%), Listed/REITs (3%), and user/other (1%).
On the other hand, Listed/REITs take the lion’s share of disposition volume at 46%. Other players that dominate the seller profile chart include private capital (32%), institutional/equity fund (19%), cross-border foreign capital (2%), and user/other (1%).
The leading student accommodation markets in the world by investment volume include the United States (57%), United Kingdom (27%), Germany (4%), Netherlands (3%), and France (2%).
Student Housing Investment
In 2016, global investment in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) reached $16 billion.
Cross-border investment in PBSA accounted for about 40% of the total investment over the last three years.
Besides, the global cross-border investment in student housing was 37% of all investment in 2016, which was higher than for offices (34%) and retail (29%).
In 2018, more than $10.9 billion flowed into the US student housing sector directed towards the acquisition of student housing assets priced at $2.5 million or more.
The investments directed towards the student housing sector in the US in 2018 represented an approximately 77% increase over the five-year average and 160% over the ten-year average.
Additionally, in terms of the 2018 acquisition volume, private capital buyers constituted the biggest percentage of the market share at 66% or $7.08 billion of the total transaction volume.
Moreover, low-cost institutional capital more than doubled its acquisition volume from $920 million in 2017 to reach $2.3 billion in 2018.
In the first half of 2019, the total transaction of student housing properties in Canada stood at $270 million, which is higher than the total transaction volume in all of 2018.
Interestingly, in spite of the growing accommodation demand, only 29% of investors are willing to invest in student housing. Most investors (67%) prefer data centers, while others target health care (55%), mobile towers (49%), single-family housing (47%), and other investments (26%).
Demand and Supply of Student Housing
In spring 2019, the total postsecondary enrollment decreased by 1.7% from 2018 sping. By spring 2020, the enrollments further declined by 0.5%.
While there has been a downward trend in college enrollments for a few years now, it is projected that once the Covid-19 dust settles, enrollment could rise. Studies show that the enrollment in degree-granting institutions in the US is projected to hit 19.8 million by 2025, representing a 2.6 million increase from 2017.
The student housing new supply between 2013 and 2018 was as follows 2013 (60,000 beds), 2014 (62,090 beds), 2015 (46,936 beds), 2016 (48,187 beds), 2017 (45,061 beds), and 2018 (41,822 beds).
In Spain, the student housing supply is not in cadence with the demand. To suffice, in 2018, of 400,000 students, only 90,000 were able to secure accommodation.
The average student per bed ratio for the European region is 7. In the UK this ratio is 4.2, Netherlands (6.2), France (6.5), Germany (9.3), and Spain (17.3).
In addition, the top five suppliers in the Spanish student accommodation market only control 15.7% of the total market share.
The global provision of purpose-built student accommodation remains low in the UK (24%), Netherlands (16%), France (15%), USA (12%), Germany (11%), Australia (6%), and Spain (6%).
The provision of student housing at the national level ranges from 34% in the UK, Netherlands (18%), Germany (11%) to 10% in Australia.
In 2017 and 2018, approximately 45,500 student housing beds were delivered in the US.
Student Housing Industry Leaders
Globally, Harrison Street invested a startling $1.9 billion in student housing in 2016. Other notable individual investments include Scion Group/CPPIB/GIC ($1.4 billion), GSA/GIC ($900 million), Brookfield AM ($580 million), and CPPIB ($580 million).
In 2018, Greystar invested $4.5 billion in student housing, which was the highest amount by a single investor in 2018. Other investors on the list included BREIT ($1.2 billion), Brookfield AM ($830 million), Scion Group ($540 million), GIC ($310 million), CPPIB ($310 million), Goldman Sachs ($250 million), and Harrison Street ($220 million).
Besides, 2018 saw a surge in large one-off portfolio transactions with players notably flexing their financial muscle. Key among them is Greystar Real Estate Partners, which spent a whopping $4.4 billion in the 77-property acquisition, a partnership between Blackstone Group and Greystar spent $1.2 billion investment consisting of 20 assets, and Allianz invested $373 million in seven properties.
The biggest PBSA providers in Australia, by the percentage of beds, include UniLodge (28%), Campus Living Villages (17%), Urbanest (10%), Atira Student Living (5%), Student Housing Australia (5%), Iglu (5%), and Student One (4%).
The leading student housing owners in the US by number of beds include American Campus Communities (113,387), Harrison Street (61,478), The Scion Group (55,416), Greystar (44,600), The Collier Companies (26,590), and The Preiss Company (23,384).
State of Student Housing
Student housing or purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) has evolved rapidly as an asset class. The growth is driven by the stable demand base, changing student demographics, and the never-ending countercyclical aspects (Savills, 2018). The remarkable growth in the level of new supply (Newmark Knight Frank, 2018) has not quelled the rising demand. But, it has definitely leveled up the competition between on- and off-campus accommodation.
This section explores the vacancy and occupancy levels of on- and off-campus student housing. It provides relevant data about types of accommodations available to students and the number of available beds.
63% of student housing in the US consists of private rooms rather than shared rooms or apartments.
In August 2018, 93.9% of student housing beds were occupied at the start of the 2018 school year, slightly lower than the 94.1% recorded in 2017
22% of US students live in older on-campus dormitories.
In addition, 6% of the total student rental units across the globe are shared rooms.
67% of UK students said their accommodation is good or excellent value for money.
Besides, 90.9% of students in Sydney, Australia rent accommodation privately or live at home. On the other hand, 5% live in commercial accommodation and 4.1% live in university accommodation.
In Melbourne, 93.3% rent privately or live at home, 3.2% live in commercial accommodations, and 3.4% live in university accommodations.
In 2015, student accommodation type in London included PBSA (9%), private rented sector (28%), university accommodation (18%), and others, including living at home (46%).
In 2019, there were 650,538 PBSA beds in the UK. Of this number, 49% were university core, 37% were direct let, and 14% Noms/leased.
The vacancy rates of student housing in the US remained considerably low between 2016 and 2019: 2016 (1.7%), 2017 (2.5%), 2018 (2.6%), and 2019 (2.3%).
2.7 million students in university-owned properties view them as mid to poor quality.
Where Do Students Live in Sydney, Australia?
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Cost of Student Housing
There is no doubt, student accommodation is steadily becoming competitive, thanks to the changing student demographics and healthy supply levels (Kejriwal & Mahajan, 2019). While numerous reasons influence the choice that students make about where they live, the overall cost and value for money remain extremely important factors (UCAS, 2019).
The following student housing statistics lay bare the cost of accommodation or average price per bed or unit in different countries and cities. Beyond the overall cost, the section provides statistics that capture factors influencing the rental ranges.
The average price per unit of investment-grade student housing assets in the US was $211,330 in 2018.
In addition, the average rental rates per bed for Fall 2018 was $704, signifying a 1.5% increase over Fall 2017.
Properties situated less than a half-mile from campus had a rental rate of $749 per bed, which is a 1.7% increase from the 2017 average.
On the other hand, rental rates of student housing located between half-mile and one mile from campus averaged $606 per bed, representing a 1.4% increase over 2017’s average.
Moreover, purpose-built student accommodations situated over one mile from campus had a meager 0.8% increase in rental rates.
Purpose-built student accommodations have different rental rates in select countries across the globe: USA ($200 to $2,200+ per month), Germany (€200 to €850 per month), UK (£200 to £2,000+ per month), France (€200 to €1,200 per month), Australia (AU$360 to $1,800 per month), and Netherlands (€300 to €800 per month).
Even though second- and third-year students in the UK sought value for money, 89% said the absolute cost of accommodation was a “very” or “extremely” important factor.
Additionally, students in the UK are willing to pay a rental premium for fast WiFi (70%), a larger bedroom (47%), an on-site gym (45%), 24-hour security (44%), a bigger/comfier bed (40%), and dining facilities/better communal kitchen (32%).
A few of the incentives offered to students living in private PBSA include free WiFi (42%), reduced accommodation cost (19%), negotiated contract terms (11%), refer a friend option (9%), entertainment or shopping voucher (6%), and cashback.
The average weekly rents of student accommodation in Australia is $299.
36% of university towns in the UK have an average direct let PBSA rent below £125 per week.
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Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium Fast WiFi : 70%
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium Larger bedroom : 47%
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium On-site gym : 45%
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium 24 hour security : 44%
24 hour security
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium Bigger/comfier bed : 40%
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium Better communal kitchen/dining facilities: 32%
Better communal kitchen/dining facilities
Factors that Entice Students into Paying Rental Premium Discounts for shops/amenities in the local area : 28%
Discounts for shops/amenities in the local area
Source: UCAS Media
Student Housing Preferences
Students, like the current generation of consumers, are inherently choosy. As such, they do not pick a specific accommodation type for the sake of it. Instead, they are impelled by personal preferences and numerous subjective factors when choosing where to live (Savills, 2018). This, coupled with student mobility, has reinforced the need for quality accommodation.
For this reason, as the market matures, student housing providers ought to evolve and deliver services that meet the demand for higher quality. Meeting the modern standards, however, is achievable only if tertiary institutions and property developers comprehensively understand what students want.
This section focuses on student housing preferences. In other words, it offers data that tell the whole story about what students look for when picking ideal accommodations. Value for money, quality of accommodation, location of the rental property, cleanliness, and facilities offered are some of the critical factors that students take into account when deciding where to live (UCAS, 2018). Even more, the section looks into the tenancy and occupancy patterns of students, both domestic and international.
General Considerations of Students on Housing
63% of students in the UK said the standard of the place they live in is a “very important” factor affecting their well-being.
The most important factor for international students in the UK when choosing their accommodation include quality of accommodation (97%), location (97%), value for money (97%), overall cost (96%), cleanliness of the bedroom (96%), quality of furnishing (91%), and size of the bedroom (87%).
79% of students in the UK said location influences how happy they are with their accommodation. Other factors cited by students include the ability to live with friends (76%), number of bedrooms (73%), quality of accommodation (67%), facilities (62%), atmosphere (52%), social scene (43%), cost (39%), catering (31%), and ability to live with family (30%).
Meanwhile, 27% of US students said that the apartment size is extremely important in their housing decision.
The top three student housing amenities for US students included in-unit washer/dryer (79%), own bathroom (68%), and extended cable/Wi-Fi (54%).
In 2012, the modern design style was favorite among 50% US students, whereas the traditional style won the heart of 34% of students.
In terms of the top design features, 76% of US students in 2012 were impressed by having their own bathroom. Other impressive features include big closets (44%), and large kitchen areas (24%).
Preferred Type of Accommodation
Students in the UK live in properties owned by private landlords (54%), university accommodations (27%), private halls (10%), others (2%), and personal properties (1%).
In 2017, 15% of European students lived in student accommodation.
62% of university students live off-campus but not with their parents.
80% of UK students living in shared rooms are happy with their accommodation.
Besides, 76% of students living in private PBSA said they are happy with their choice of accommodation.
Moreover, 71% of UK students living in single-person flats or studios said they are happy with their accommodation.
As regards room type, students from all over the world prefer renting private rooms. In fact, 64% of students from China, Europe (63%), Pacific Asia (63%), US (63%), the rest of the world (62%), and the Middle East (61%) would rent a private room.
Moreover, there is relative uniformity in the percentage of students that want to rent an entire place or studio. 33% of students from the Middle East are more likely to rent an entire place. Others include the rest of the world (33%), USA (31%), Pacific Asia (31%), Europe (31%), and China (29%).
38% of US students in 2012 said they would most likely live in mid-rise apartments, community cottage (33%), single-family house (13%), and high-rise apartment tower (9%).
In addition, in 2012, 37% of US students more often selected units with two bedrooms. On the other hand, 27% selected three bedrooms, 24% 4 or more bedrooms, whereas only 11% selected units with one bedroom.
In terms of the number of roommates, 9% of US students said they prefer to live alone. Meanwhile, some preferred to live with one roommate (23%), two roommates (16%), three roommates (42%), four roommates (10%), and five or more roommates (2%).
Source: Savills (2018)
Tenancy and Location Preferences
In terms of tenancy type, students from the Middle East and China are more likely to take the longest tenancies, 90% and 87%, respectively, for a complete academic year. Meanwhile, 82% of students from Europe, US (78%), Pacific Asia (76%), and the rest of the world (80%) would prefer to take a full academic year tenancy.
On the contrary, 17% of students from the Pacific Asia region prefer to take a semester-long tenancy. 15% of US students, 14% from the rest of the world, Europe (13%), China (9%), and the Middle East (7%) share the same preference.
In a 2013 survey by J Turner Research, US students said the furthest distance they would no longer consider leasing at a particular property is a couple of blocks (15%), 1 mile (16%), 2 miles (16%), 3 miles (14%), 4 miles (6%), and more than 5 miles (22%).
Data on Student Housing Problems
The annual rent growth in select universities in the US underscores the problems students are facing in their quest for quality accommodation. Even though the rent rate is rising slowly (Rudden, 2018), it is clearly taking the wrong trend for all students. In fact, according to a study by Save The Student, about half of students struggle to keep up with the rent, which is clearly not capped in line with their finances (Bushi, 2019).
The data in this section revolve around the rising rent rates. It provides insights into the problems students are having while raising money for rent. Moreover, it digs deeper to unearth the concerning consequences, such as mental health challenges and poor academic performance that occur as a result of money worries.
In the UK, there was a 107,508 increase in beds despite there being a 146,900 increase in demand, creating a 39,392 beds deficit.
The rent growth of student accommodation in the US between 2016 and 2018 is as follows: 2016 (3.6%), 2017 (3.4%), and 2018 (3.3%). Moreover, the rent growth reached 3.4% in 2019.
In the US alone, there were more than 32,000 homeless college students in 2018.
Besides, 8.8% of undergraduate students and 8.5% of graduate students were at risk of homelessness in 2018.
Moreover, over two-thirds of undergraduate students in the US work while in school to meet their basic needs.
The US universities with the highest annual rent growth are Bowling Green State University (7.5%), Brigham Young University (7.2%), University of Nevada (7%), Virginia Tech (6.2%), Minnesota State University (6.2%), and University of California (6.1%).
1 in 2 students in the UK struggle with rent payment.
Besides, approximately 63% of students claim the cost of accommodation negatively impacts their mental health.
Also, about 37% of students in the UK say rent worries affect their studies.
65% of students in the UK borrow money to pay for their accommodation.
In addition, 46% of students in the UK borrow money from their parents. Other sources of money include overdraft (36%), friends (29%), university (6%), credit card (4%), and payday loan (2%).
Among the critical housing issues that students have to contend with include noisy housemates (45%), damp environment (35%), housemate stealing food (33%), lack of water/heating (32%), disruptive building work (20%), and rodents/pest (16%).
In the US, 34% of undergraduate students who are independent earn less than $20,000 per year.
Gear Up for the Growing Demand for Student Housing
The soaring enrollment of college and university students is a tale shared by institutions across the world (Newmark Knight Frank, 2018). As the enrollment soars in the US, many of the leading universities have continued to grapple with conspicuous supply gaps, which epitomize the student housing situation all over the world.
According to Knight Frank, the demand for student housing is evidently higher than the additional beds being delivered by institutions of higher learning (Newmark Knight Frank, 2018). The unfolding case of limited supply has amplified the attractiveness of student housing, prompting developers to leverage the high yield potential of the underserved market.
As shown by the above student statistics, deep-pocketed realtors and developers are willing to invest huge amounts in student housing. This is perfectly embodied by several large portfolio transactions witnessed in 2018. Amidst the constricted supply, students have their own problems to deal with. Primarily, as the demand grows, the price of student housing has taken an upward trend and it is causing huge money problems.
In spite of the sustained endeavor to develop student housing that can satisfy the current demand, nothing has been won yet. The combined effort of private developers and institutions alike has only managed to deliver an infinitesimal percentage of the required accommodation, which is exemplified by the big student per bed ratio in popular academic destinations (Deloitte, 2019). Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure that the provision of student housing keeps pace with the ever-growing demand.
Beyond that, institutions of higher learning and private developers ought to remain abreast of the latest student trends. Primarily, there is a need to study and research more on the standards today’s students want in terms of accommodation. In this way, it will be feasible to develop housing properties that resonate with the students’ preferences but are also affordable.
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