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Jan. 23, 2013

Special Report: Student Housing Trends vs. Traditional Multifamily Communities

By Jessica Fiur, News Editor

Palm Springs, Calif.—At “Student Housing: Any Bumps Ahead in This Strong Sector” session at the NMHC Apartment Strategies Outlook Conference in Palm Springs, Calif., speakers Bill Bayless, president and CEO, American Campus Communities; Randy Churchey, president and CEO, EdR; Brian Dinerstein, president, The Dinerstein Companies; and David Adelman, president and CEO, Campus Apartments discussed how student housing differs from traditional multifamily apartments.

One of the key differences between student housing and traditional housing is what would be considered a good location. While for traditional multifamily, a good location would be near transportation, for student housing a good location is either near the school, or near student gathering areas. Additionally, while job growth and the economy tend to drive multifamily growth, for student housing, enrollment in school is the major driving factor.

In terms of development, many of the trends actually begin in student housing communities, such as the importance of Wi-Fi and Internet access. “Emerging trends in multifamily were emerging trends in student housing five years ago,” Bayless said.

And even though it’s usually the parents who pay the rent, it’s still important to appeal to the students. “Students want value. It’s amazing how sophisticated they are as consumers,” Bayless said.

Eco-friendly features are also a very important factor students look for in their housing. “Students expect sustainable features,” Bayless said. Dinerstein agreed. “Every deal we do now is at least LEED Silver,” he said.

For student housing, the popular amenities are similar to popular amenities seen in traditional multifamily communities. Many include wood floors, stainless steel and kitchen islands. However, there is one amenity that student housing might see more than traditional multifamily communities: tanning beds.

And, despite a reputation for wanting to socialize, students do want their privacy. “Every student wants their own bathroom,” Adelman said. Churchey also felt that students appreciate some alone time. “What kids want is their private bedroom, but areas outside where they can socialize,” he said.

Even if developers aren’t interested in getting involved in student housing, the speakers said it is important to pay attention to that market. “Our residents are your future residents,” Bayless said.