Last year, our community came together in the form of a diverse group of investors, operators, members of higher education and more to share their insights and expertise on the most important trends shaping the future of student housing. The Trend Report gives a comprehensive overview of the key issues and opportunities facing the sector and brings a host of different perspectives while covering various regions throughout Europe.
The aim of this report is to serve as a valuable resource for professionals and stakeholders looking to stay ahead of the curve and make informed decisions about the future of student accommodation.
For our 2022 Trend Report, we identified six main topics; policy reform, sustainability, student mobility, wellbeing & community, social value, and market strategies. These key areas represent each of our chapters.
We designated policy reform as the first chapter because policies set the rules and regulations governing the sector. Before any developments can be made in student accommodation, policy has to create the foundation and groundwork that everything else abides by. From zoning and land use, to funding and financing, policy plays a crucial role in determining what kind of student housing is built, where it can be located, and how it can influence affordability. This chapter includes articles covering important policy developments in markets from northern Europe with the UK and Belgium, as well as from Southern Europe with articles on Spain and Italy.
In the UK article, Sam Bailey-Watts delves deep into the impact of the affordable student housing shortage, saying that “It affects a university’s recruitment, reputation, future planning strategy, local community relationships, and its work to propel its civic impact”. He goes on to explain plans laid out by the government and also claims that cites the need for greater collaboration between public and private stakeholders.
Arne Hermans of Diggit Studentlife talks about the growth of student housing development in Belgium and its transition into a more mature market. But according to him, in order for further supporting policies to take place, students need to collaborate with the local residents and landlords to get on the same page on what they need.
Moving on to Southern Europe, the article on policy reform in Spain by Patricia Klopf of HousingAnywhere, talks about the measures made by the Spanish federal government to counter the housing crisis, especially with young people in mind. This article highlights two measures relevant for students; a rental bonus for young citizens, and a rent cap.
Over in Italy, members of Politecnico di Milano and Roma Tre University collaborate on a deeply insightful article on the ins and outs of the student housing market in Italy, showing that the country is still characterized by significant gaps between supply and demand (with a ratio of beds to students of around 4%, compared to 30% in the UK). In their article, they highlight how the Italian government has a policy of co-financing student housing construction, with the aim of increasing the number of beds in university cities from 44,000 to 100,000 by 2026.
With the energy crisis, the topic of sustainability is more relevant than ever. Sustainability is an increasingly important trend in the student housing sector, as demand for environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient accommodations grows. By exploring sustainability trends and best practices, we can help to create a more sustainable future for student housing and higher education.
Shaun Stevens’ article on “The Importance of the E in ESG”, highlights that PBSAs have the potential to be socially impactful investments while being environmentally friendly, at the possible cost of lower returns.
Daniel Smith continues on the topic of ESG in his article, prompting those in student accommodation to ask the proper questions that are overlooked in order to go beyond just compliance, such as who should oversee and what an organisation’s ESG strategy should be and how to go beyond operational impacts.
Christopher Holloway from Yugo also talks about moving beyond compliance, in order to avoid greenwashing. Real sustainability is tricky to implement, and he explains that in the student housing sector, energy (production, transport, storage, and related emissions) is a major challenge, especially when considering cost and balancing affordability for students.
The remaining two articles show implementations of sustainability in student housing developments. Eckehart Loidolt explains the passive house projects of OeAD, which follow an eco-friendly building standard that maintains constant room temperature with effective ventilation technology and insulation materials. Meanwhile, David Elofsson of Assa Abloy explains the importance of sustainable products used in student housing which can make use of technology to reduce one’s carbon footprint, such as by implementing electronic access solutions to reduce waste and streamline operations in buildings.
While student mobility also has the potential to broaden horizons and enrich the student experience, it also poses challenges for housing providers, who must be able to accommodate a diverse and transient student population. By exploring student mobility trends and best practices, we can help to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for students on the move.
The article by Arunima Dey, Laura Rumbley, and Carmen Neghina contextualises current trends in student mobility from different perspectives. In this collaborative article, we get stances coming from universities, accommodation providers, and students. The common factor between these was that preparation is needed ahead of time with the use of data to ensure students are able to find the accommodations they need.
Juan Rayon Gonzalez, President of Erasmus Student Network, delivers an insightful article that highlights some key findings from their surveys with regards to student mobility. These findings show that in spite of students reporting higher levels of satisfaction with host institutions, many were still met with numerous difficulties such as having to secure funding, inadequate accommodation and more. Amongst all these factors, finances were still the most important issue for most students. Thus, affordability should still be at the top of the agenda for universities and housing providers.
Akos Kiraly of SRH Education presents an interesting trend in his article, showing how market share of higher education abroad has started to shift from the traditional study destinations such as the US, Canada, UK, Australia and NZ, towards Europe as EU countries recognise the benefits to be gained in attracting international talent around the world.
Savills’ article written by Richard Valentine-Selsey on international student mobility for the UK explores the impacts on inbound international students resulting from Brexit. The data interestingly reveals that total international student numbers are up, with an increase in non-EU student applications from 2020, but an understandable drop in applications coming from EU students, due to the increased fees and stricter immigration policies.
Finally, the article titled “On War, Conflict, and Student Mobility” by Gerrit Bruno Bloss from Study.eu takes a look into the effects of the pandemic on mobile students as well as some of the key factors leading students to study abroad; economy, post-study work visas, elections and war. Cases like the Ukraine-Russia conflict force students to be mobile. The key takeaway, however, is that education providers must adapt to these "push" and "pull" factors, in order to ensure continued success in student recruitment.
WELLBEING and COMMUNITY
Wellbeing and community are important subjects in the student housing sector, as more and more students, universities, and housing providers seek to create supportive and inclusive living environments. This chapter examines the ways in which student housing can foster a sense of belonging and support student success. From mental health and wellness to community engagement, wellbeing & community encompasses a wide range of issues and opportunities.
In his article, Robin Walsh, the head of Bournemouth University, claims that the best method for student services to be as helpful as they can is to collaborate with all the relevant people and teams available, both in and out of universities, to form a cohesive support system.
In the Salto Systems article by Caterina Maiolini and Christian Schmitz, we learn the importance of creating opportunities for residents to bond as social sustainability is a key factor in influencing residents to stay in their buildings. Residents who have friends living in the same place tend to stay longer.
“Purpose built and built for purpose: Why student wellbeing isn’t a trend” by Darren Gardner of Nido’s provides a good example for operators by implementing a newer approach in connecting students to wellbeing not only in physical spaces, but by connecting to them virtually and through community experiences.
Frank Haber, in his article, speaks of how diversity is a crucial part of students feeling accepted and maintaining a positive community, yet in reality minority groups might face certain issues when navigating their university experience. He mentions several ways to engage and empower these minority students, such as having diversity-oriented marketing activities, creating safe spaces, developing a code of conduct, connecting with student leaders and representatives, and fostering an intercultural community spirit.
Martina Pardo’s article highlight how co-living spaces can be specially designed to promote wellness for its residents. Some of the ways to do this are to make spaces for positive activities like the gym, providing a feeling of control by distinguishing what is private and communal, facilitating a feeling of “home”, and designing for sustainability.
Silvano Zanuso of Technogym, in his article, speaks of the role of physical activity and exercise in helping student wellbeing. The article cites studies that show physical exercise to positively affect mental health, which in turn helps academic performance.
From affordable housing and community development, to diversity and inclusion, social value can be captured in many different ways.
In their article “How (and Why) to Embed ESG & Social Value in Shared Living”, Dr Penny Clark and Matt Lesniak discuss the importance of putting social value at the core of the business model in real estate. Their message on how to enact social value can be simplified as such; a business has to identify the issues most relevant to building their ESG strategy, learn how to embed them, and finally communicate the impacts of their strategy.
Harald Hubl takes a different approach and questions whether or not people in student accommodation are really creating social value because it is important or just for the financial benefits that come from it. Harald discusses the concept of social value accounting, which is the process of measuring and reporting the social and environmental value created by a business. He argues that social value accounting can provide a proper basis for decision-making and sustainable resource allocation, and can be beneficial for students, developers, investors, operators, and municipalities.
Creating inclusive spaces and fostering diversity is also a significant part of embedding social value. Arunima Dey writes about the merits of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion), and how it can vary in meaning to different people. The article claims that DEI is an ongoing learning process and it is important to understand people's individual perspectives on DEI, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all solution.
Dr Elizabeth Cox of Basecamp delves into what these aspects actually mean for those in real estate. Her article highlights that diverse leadership teams are more effective, as they tend to come up with different solutions for the same problems. The more diversity of thought, the more likely a solution will be a hit.
Pavlina Chandras writes on the importance of engaging residents and the community to take up social action to make a difference. For example, Livensa’s staff and residents alike all came together to support Ukrainians affected by the war, by lending them an ear or supporting them financially.
CX-Place’s Giorgio Taddei takes a similar approach and as operators, they believe their ultimate task is to not only provide high-quality accommodation and services for its guests, but also to contribute to the growth and development of the next generation.
Lastly, the article by Johanna Hann of I-Live shows a model built on the important values of trust and community. They created the “Community Concept”, which intends to make it easy for residents to make new friends through numerous opportunities for joint activities, shared spaces that follow the Brazilian style of condomínios and a community app.
The final section in our trend report is on market strategies in order to celebrate in the sector some of the best practices to help accommodation providers and other stakeholders succeed in today’s market. The market around student housing is constantly evolving and becoming more competitive, so it is important to stay on top of some of the key tactics and understand the needs of many students.
Deenie and Sarah from the Property Marketing Strategists talk about formulating the right marketing strategy to appeal to students. They claim that there is a nuance in attracting customers, especially if those customers are students looking for accommodation. It is not about making them feel sold to, but making them experience the brand throughout the whole year and having them witness others experiencing the brand.
Jonas Häggqvist of Coly speaks of how operators can maintain positive tenants and use them as a ‘marketable community’. Jonas says that it is about better communication, improving expectation management, and making sure tenants are happy. These involve methods such as personalized emails, questionnaires, and more digital tools for values and personality mapping. By knowing who lives in their properties, operators can tailor advice and tips to help tenants thrive.
Lavanda’s article, written by CEO Frederik Lerche-Lerchenborg, points to a key trend in the market; the rise in flexible student accommodation. Flexible rental models are gaining popularity because of several factors; the prevalence of multi-tenure asset classes, the need for resilient asset portfolios, students facing cost-of-living issues, and the optimisation of properties for ESG reasons.
The last article in the chapter, Studentbostäder i Norden explains the optimistic market of the Nordics and highlights the opportunities and challenges for student housing that lie within. Investors need to understand the trends in the market, such as students preferring studios over shared accommodations. Those in the market are then met with the challenge of navigating between maintaining privacy and alleviating loneliness. To learn more about the Nordics, join our online session on the 26th of January 2023.
Our 2022 Trend Report covers insights, ideas and good practices we believe the industry will continue to explore and improve on well into the future.
Our eclectic collection of articles from leading voices around Europe demonstrates an achievement in bringing our community together, moving from silos to creating collaborative and knowledge sharing ecosystems. We believe that our trend report would be valuable and insightful for anyone interested in a better understanding of the future of student housing. So go on, and give it a read!