Global Student Accommodation Group (GSA) has made its first foray into the U.S. by closing on the acquisition of 27 properties across 18 states, totaling 8,000 beds. The international student accommodation giant picked up the 8,000-bed portfolio from UCAL, a joint venture between University Communities LLC and the California State Teachers Retirement Fund (CalSTRS).
All the properties are located next to major universities and research institutions and are more than 96 percent occupied across the portfolio, according to a statement by GSA. In addition to the assets, the company also acquired property management firm UComm, through which GSA will manage and operate all the properties and integrate the existing U.S.-based leadership and management team. GSA also agreed with University Communities to partner on acquiring and developing further student housing assets in the U.S.
The transaction is backed by Blackstone Real Estate Debt Strategies, which led the whole loan origination, with Wells Fargo Bank agenting the senior loan. TSB Capital Advisors brokered the deal. GSA declined to disclose the full list of properties it acquired from UCAL, but the assets include:
- Carriage House at 3500 Powelton Ave. in Philadelphia, nearby Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania
- Catalyst at 631 W. Madison St. in Tallahassee, Fla., serving the Florida State University
- District Flats at 127 South Eighth, Columbia, Mo., near the University of Missouri
- The Landing Apartments at 470 S. 1300 E in Salt Lake City, neighboring the University of Utah
University Communities is an institutional money manager specializing in buying and operating university-related housing across the U.S. Its joint venture partner, CalSTRS, is the second-largest public pension fund in the U.S. with $275 billion in total assets, including $36 billion of real estate, as of last November.
Global player on the move
GSA said in a statement that it had patiently waited for the right investment opportunity to arise for its U.S. debut, marking the first entry by an international player into the world’s largest student housing market.
With roots in the UK stretching back 30 years, GSA currently operates in 55 cities across nine countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific, in addition to its new U.S. foray. The company previously partnered with Chicago-based Harrison Street on a venture to acquire more than 10,000 student housing beds across Spain, targeting investment of more than $845.5 million in the country.
Last February, GSA purchased five purpose-built student housing properties in Dublin from Harrison Street in a $440.2 million (EUR 400 million) deal.