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UK student housing investor bets on fall enrollment

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James Seppala, Head of Real Estate Europe at Blackstone Group, believes college applications can increase. (Getty, Black Stone)

Investors making big investments in the UK student housing market have hopes that fall will go back to school and go back to business.

Many college students plan to return to campus at the end of the summer, which means demand for nearby student residences. According to The Wall Street Journal, in most cases investors don’t think the epidemic will have a serious impact on enrollment in the medium to long term.

James Seppala, head of the Real Estate Group at the Blackstone Group in Europe, said college application rates can sometimes increase in difficult economic conditions. We also saw this during the global financial crisis.

Blackstone is one of the biggest investors in student housing, and it did a great job last year, paying about $6 billion for the iQ company and the UK city’s asset portfolio. Reports show that this deal alone was larger than all investment deals in the sector closed in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Greystar is also optimistic in this segment. Earlier this year, the company announced a £301 million $400 million contract for 2,000 beds in five buildings in four cities. This has more than doubled total investment in this sector since 2013. A real estate company in London, for example, has a share of around 70%, lower than the typical 95%, but not as bad as the hotel sector.

The student housing sector has room to grow. Only about 20-30% of UK students live in specialty housing, while in the United States about 50-60% of state school students live in such housing, according to figures.

The plague specifically hit the US student housing sector and colleges. As of the fall, about 30% of public and private universities were in deficit. Some have even worked with private developers to convert student homes into luxury apartments.

[WSJ] Denis Lynch

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