Despite continued uncertainty around school reopening—in-person classes, online learning or a mix between the two—student housing professionals remain optimistic about the future. Many developers are adding more outdoor and open spaces to their properties, as crowded, indoor common-area spaces are no longer feasible considering social distancing requirements. Consequently, what was important before COVID-19 will become a necessity in the post-pandemic world.
Going forward, Swenson President & CEO Case Swenson believes “there may be a shift toward housing designed for small social groups and more of a focus on outdoor spaces and amenities.” In an interview with Multi-Housing News, he talked about The Grad, a 260-unit student housing property near the San Jose State University, which includes 1,039 beds and was developed through a partnership with AMCAL Equities. Here’s what the Swenson executive thinks about the student housing market in San Jose.
How is housing demand in San Jose currently performing?
Swenson: There has always been demand for housing in San Jose and we don’t see that changing.
How did the coronavirus lockdown impact your residential projects?
Swenson: The coronavirus lockdown created a slowdown in leasing of our residential projects. With so much uncertainty around how schools were going to resume, either virtually or in person, we did have some students and families hesitant to make a commitment to lease until they knew how their classes were going to resume. That said, San Jose and the Silicon Valley in general are still seeing a strong demand for people wanting to remain in the area.
To what extent has the health crisis influenced the design and architecture of your projects?
Swenson: The health crisis has not had a tremendous impact on the overall design and architecture of our projects. However, we are concentrating on adding more common open space and outdoor amenity space if at all possible.
Tell us more details about The Grad.
Swenson: The Grad opened for tenants in mid-August and we continue to receive inquiries from prospective residents. While available amenities are changing depending on guidance from the county, we always have an on-site management company to ensure that we are taking a proactive approach to promoting the safety, wellness and comfort of all our tenants.
What is unique about The Grad? What sets it apart from other similar projects nearby?
Swenson: The Grad is a unique project because of its high-rise design and abundance of amenities right in the urban center of San Jose. There is literally something for everyone—an exercise center, a swimming pool with sundeck and barbecue areas, sports courts, picnic area, community space for activities, lush landscaping and the list goes on. Not to mention this location is ideal for walking to San Jose State University, transit and all the venues of downtown, including eateries, coffee shops and event venues.
What can you tell us about the leasing process for this development?
Swenson: The Grad is completed and leasing is ongoing. While there continues to be ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 and if universities will reopen for in-person classes at some point, we are still seeing interest in leasing.
Do you plan to expand your student housing portfolio?
Swenson: We definitely plan to expand our student housing portfolio. The San Jose area has always had a shortage of housing options for students. And while this school year has been impacted by the pandemic, we feel that once schools reopen, the need for student housing with student-focused amenities will return.
How do you see the student housing industry recovering from the effects of the pandemic?
Swenson: We are optimistic about the future. Although things may look a little different: There may be a shift toward housing designed for small social groups and more of a focus on outdoor spaces and amenities.