Student housing investment to top £5bn

Students may still be staying up all night revising for their final exams, but their accommodation has changed vastly, as the student housing sector continues to grow from a bunch of bedsits into a major international industry.

Tiny desks and run-down bedrooms were the order of the day years ago, but students have begun to expect more in recent years from their accommodtion. The most recent ‘Homes fit for study’ research report by the National Union of Students found that increasingly students are looking for their accommodation to provide them with an environment that is a good place to study, as opposed to somewhere simply to lay their head.
When looking at the figures of those who feel their accommodation does offer something extra, though, the figures are quite different. Just 43 per cent of those living in private halls, and 54 per cent of students in institution-managed halls, feel their property provides facilities that allow for effective course engagement.

“A comfortable individual environment, where students feel happy, relaxed and safe, alongside additional features such as common rooms, group study areas and luxury lounges combine to create the ideal environment to make the very most of revision periods and to support students through the difficult dissertation process. Yet it is sadly hard to find in the private rented sector,” says Heriberto Cuanalo, CEO of Collegiate AC, a leading provider of luxury student accommodation.

“At Collegiate AC, we have taken a thorough approach to the creation of our student accommodation, with attention to detail at every turn. This includes a recognition of the key role of effective study spaces and additional facilities, such a free high-speed Wi-Fi, that will make the revision process easy and as pain-free as possible.”

It is not just in quality and purpose-built housing, though, that the student property sector has transformed. The investment market for student accommodation has also matured. It has grown from its roots in the Business Expansion Scheme of the late 1980s to the listing of Student REITs on the London Stock Exchange.

In 2014, investment in the purpose-built student accommodation market totalled £2.45 billion, 23 per cent above 2013 levels. This figure has already been surpassed in the first five months of 2015, with £4.2 billion invested (on both a standing investment and site acquisition basis). This is already 70 per cent above the level recorded at this time last year and 40 per cent above the previous peak in 2012.

“The purpose-built student accommodation sector looks set to continue its strong growth,” says Savills.

“Student numbers are recovering and are set to increase further with the removal of the cap. With increased numbers, there is the need for more supply. The level of supply required will vary by town and city depending on the strength and type of demand. It will also depend on the quality, location and price of existing supply. We expect the ‘flight to quality’ to continue with higher ranking institutions benefiting most (subject to their expansion plans).”

Savills now forecasts a total investment of £5.5 billion in the sector this year.