Commercial’s Bright Spot: College Campuses


Due to limited supply and strong demand, sales of rental housing for college students hit a record high of $22.9B in 2022.

NEW YORK – Housing geared to college students attending popular schools is a rare bright spot in the commercial real-estate business. Student housing rents are poised to grow, boosted by limited supply and strong demand.

Despite the increase in mortgage rates last year, student-housing property sales reached a record high of $22.9 billion in 2022, according to data from CBRE Group.

Multifamily rents rose 2.3% during the 12 months ended in May 2023, according to RealPage, but student-housing rent is increasing at about 9%.

“This is a sector that we think has stood the test of time and is going to be a continued bright spot in the future,” says Jacob Werner, co-head of Americas acquisitions for Blackstone real estate, which made the biggest bet on student housing last year – a $12.8 billion acquisition of American Campus Communities.

Student housing “is an all-weather asset class. In good times, people go to school,” Werner says. “In bad times, more people tend to go to school.”

The pandemic provided a unique test of student housing’s ability to withstand tough markets. Analysts expected a hit in 2020, but occupancy remained stable even during the peak of online classes. Students wanted to move out of their parents’ houses and live near their college campuses even when attending classes virtually.

Uncertainty about the return-to-campus kept rents down until the second half of 2021, but they began increasing in 2022.

Source: Wall Street Journal (07/03/23) Blunt, Katherine

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