Plugging The Gap: Servicing The Typical Student

PBSA student study area

The last 5 years have seen a huge focus in developing high-end student accommodation. There are some really creative and luxurious accommodations around, but there is evidence that this is creating a gap in the market.

Before investors flock to continue building more luxury blocks, it’s important to consider the demographic in the proposed area and the affordability of their investment. No doubt that there is a strong market for high-end accommodation but it is only affordable to a small percentage of the population: we need to be careful not to inject funds into an already saturated market.

Karen Burke, Head of Accommodation Services, Sheffield Hallam University said at the Westminster Higher Education Forum on 20th June this year “Are we over-providing now?  Somebody told me about a property that’s got a private dining area and the feedback to one of the directors of the company said, it’s great, we’ve had 75% of use in that space where they’ve booked out, cooked and eaten with their friends, but the 75% were five students, there was nobody else that used it.“ This type of analysis on current models is fundamental in developing successful, valuable and full accommodations.

In a market that is quickly becoming saturated with high-end living, it is important for investors to see the potential in providing good quality, affordable accommodation. Of course, its lovely to be able to showcase cinema’s and bowling alleys to students but they cost more to the investors and the students, if they’re underused everybody loses. There is no denying that amenity spaces are important, but we need to consider what is needed most.

Since the trebling of fees, students work harder to receive value for money from their education. Often meaning they ditch the stereotypical weeknights on the town for study sessions. Keeping student trends as the forefront of our minds allows us to develop accommodations that provide the best value for money for us and for our customers. Social and private study spaces will promote productivity and are more likely to be used and appreciated than an entertainment space: they’re also cheaper to develop and maintain.

For those unable to afford concierge services and swimming pool,s we need to invest in sites that promote wellness and productivity; spaces that feel homely with well thought out lighting and colours. Accommodation with community spaces without the frills and hefty rental and development costs.

The prices of high-end accommodations are often beyond what student finance facilitates, therefore, in order to afford such luxuries, they are having to rely on funding from parents or take on jobs that often detract from their studies. By developing more high quality and affordable accommodations, developers will be enriching the student experience. With 36% of students stating financial difficulties as a cause of mental health problems it’s important to consider this when designing accommodation. Being happy in their accommodation is a large part of student well-being, as is affording the lifestyle. Whilst accommodations with the highest yields are attractive to developers and investors, the largest portion of the student markets cannot facilitate the rental costs ad with rent marring the student experience, investment into a more affordable model is much needed.

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