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3 Student Housing Trends That Really Matter

By Sandra Zimmerman

chanel_meme.gifIt seems that every major trend, no matter which industry we are referring to, has an equal and opposite backlash trend. In recent years, luxury student housing has been getting quite a lot of attention, mostly because like the lifestyles of Hollywood celebrities, it’s glamorous, desirable, and for many, interesting to talk about.

However, the reality is that for the most part, luxury student housing only caters to the 1%, while the marketing of this entitled experience alienates the remaining 99% and diverts attention from the true purpose of higher education — to prepare students for life and success in the real world.

As enrolment in colleges and universities steadily increases with the growing population, so does the demand for student housing. That makes the student housing market a very lucrative opportunity for property management companies. However in order to maximize your success in this sector, it’s critical to be aware of what the majority of this target market really wants and needs, including:

• convenience, which equals close proximity to campus
• education that is practical and entrepreneurial in nature
• social connections and educational collaborations
• affordability and comfort of living accommodations


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The following trends in student housing address the needs listed above while overcoming some of the challenges created by population density and the existing infrastructure of communities that surround campuses.

Shift from single home residences to high multi-unit buildings

For many decades, it has been commonplace for single family homes in college/university towns to be rented out to multiple student roommates. However, with growing student populations, there is simply not enough inventory in most cases to accommodate the demand. In already densely populated areas, the only place to build is up, resulting in the increasing development of high rise buildings as student residences. The surrounding communities also benefit from the increased number of high rise buildings for students, as these structures free up traditional homes in prime locations, to be more affordably occupied by families.

According to a survey conducted by The Scion Group, one of the most preferred layouts for student apartment-style living is 4 private bedrooms with 2 semi-private baths and shared kitchen and living room space. This configuration effectively addresses the need for both privacy and social interaction.

Property Management Software created specifically for the Student market makes it easy to accommodate such a scenario, with automated features like PAP and Split ACH/EFT (rent by the bed, with separate leases and Tenant Ledgers and customizable leasing periods for semesters and units/rooms/beds).

Repurposing existing spaces into micro-units

In a number of college towns, there may exist 3rd tier properties such as vacant factories or other commercial buildings that are in close proximity to campus. These properties are prime candidates to be purchased at a bargain price and renovated into micro-units for students. The icing on this cake is that thanks to reality shows like Tiny House, Big Living, residing in a small, yet efficiently designed space is now considered stylish and resourceful rather than shameful. The number of units that can be comfortably fit into a given space makes such residential options both affordable for students and profitable for developers/investors.

Purpose-built fusion facilities

There’s a growing trend towards RLC’s (Residential Learning Communities). Unlike their luxury-living counterparts, these purpose-built residences focus on improving student engagement and successful outcomes in meaningful learning. In addition to residential units, such facilities include shared spaces or “garage spaces” that can be used for collaborations that enrich the learning experience, like building a prototype or holding an event. Fusion facilities may also include amenities related to food, wellness and group study.

These three emerging trends are likely to be the most sustainable and profitable for the long haul, as they focus on the practical needs of today’s students and the surrounding community, rather than attempting to recreate the decadent student-lifestyle of the “super gross rich” Chanel Oberlin, as depicted in the popular TV series Scream Queens.
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