A new global survey finds that occupancy rates in student housing has returned to pre-pandemic levels in many destinations.

Student Accommodation

Affordable and good quality student housing is an important dimension of for any international study destination. Limited housing supply pushes up living costs for domestic and international students alike. Also, beyond budgeting, it can intrude otherwise on the quality of the student experience. At the same time, demand for housing is an important indicator of overall student demand for a particular destination.
For all of these reasons, the purpose-built student accommodation or PBSA sector is of keen interest to international educators.

Here are some of the important top-line trends for the PBSA space. The Student Housing Annual Report 2021, (link: https://www.bonard.com/insights/student-housing-annual-report-2021) was released at the end of April 2022.

This report for 2021 is based on a comprehensive global survey of student housing in 32 countries and 270 cities. It sums up trends for a global pool of nearly two million beds in 12,748 student housing establishments. Of those, roughly 670,000 beds, and 7,586 facilities, are in privately owned facilities.

Key Findings

• The overall finding of the Bonard report is that the PBSA sector has been very resilient throughout the pandemic. Many private housing providers in Europe, for example, registered only about a 5-10% decline in bookings in 2020. This is a much more modest decline than was reported in other travel and hospitality sectors that year. The Bonard report looks at sector performance as of September 2021. Many PBSA providers had seen bookings return to pre-pandemic levels.

• Bonard notes that private housing providers fared better during the pandemic. This was measured in terms of occupancy rates and overall performance. “Overall, student demand has not decreased significantly,” explains Julia Momotiuk, head of rented residential at Bonard. “While investment appetite has remained the same or even increased during the pandemic. Students continued to travel to their destinations and preferred to study on-site rather than online.” This resurgence of bookings was driven in part by a “double cohort” effect. What does it mean? It means that students who had deferred their studies in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic, began or resumed their programmes in 2021.

The Way Forward

• The sector continues to attract strong investor interest with hundreds of thousands of new student housing beds in the development pipeline.

• But, there is substantial investment and time required to bring new student housing stock into operation. Hence, PBSA capacity tends to lag behind market demand generally. As per Bonard’s, there are very few destinations across its 270-city sample, that could be considered “saturated” in terms of student housing beds. What does it mean to reach saturation in Bonard’s model? A destination needs to have an inventory of PBSA beds roughly equivalent to 25% of the total student housing demand in that market.

• The research team estimates that, as of September 2021, there were roughly 230,000 beds in the PBSA pipeline across Europe. These were including both facilities under active construction as well as those still in the planning stage.

• The annual report indicates that just over 50,000 new beds were added across Europe in 2021. Another 72,000 beds are expected in 2022. And, a further 48,000 beds will be available in 2023.

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