The coronavirus has affected all aspects of our lives

Private purpose-built student accommodation supply to continue to outgrow that of university student housing in the UK

The coronavirus has affected all aspects of our lives and education is no exception. What exactly will be the implications for universities and students, it is perhaps too early to say given that the pandemic constantly wreaks havoc.

What we know so far is that the purpose-built student accommodation sector in the UK is still growing. StuRents statistics show that in June 23,000 beds are being advertised for the 2020-2021 academic year. Moreover, if all planned PBSA schemes are realized, 700,000 beds will be available. Most of the student housing supply comes from private operators. To be precise, StuRents numbers indicate that 80% of the management of purpose-built student developments is controlled by private companies, while the share of universities has shrunk.

The private student accommodation supply has grown 5.7% year-on-year, while that of universities only 1%. In addition, the growth of all PBSA supply has been 3.4% so far, while it was 5.5% a year ago. Naturally, the coronavirus craze has forced many PBSA developers to defer schemes, while others have remained on track.

Among those that have decided to freeze their schemes is Unite Students and Empiric Student Property. To preserve money, Unite Students has put on hold two purpose-built student accommodation investments in London and Bristol. Similarly, Empiric Student Property has halted the progress on three developments until conditions improve. With a combined number of 519 beds, the schemes include Emily Davis in Southampton, a refurbishment project in Canterbury, and St Mary’s in Bristol.

But for some developers of purpose-built student accommodation, things continue as planned. Watkin Jones, for example, is on track to deliver six schemes by the third quarter of 2020. One of the developments is the Onyx scheme in Birmingham expected to deliver 1,023 beds, which will be managed by Fresh Student Living. Also, in the pipeline is the 976-bed White Rose scheme in Leeds set to be managed by Unite Students. If we look to other places, nearly 4,000 beds are planned for delivery this year in Coventry, 2,000 in London and Leeds, and 1,400 in Nottingham. In terms of the management of new beds, private PBSA operators seem to lead the race. Fresh Student Living will manage the largest share of new beds, 23.5%, followed by CRM students with 15.8%, StuRents statistics show.

The environment remains challenging and the effect of the coronavirus on full-time students is still unclear. According to StuRents, operators can make better decisions about their marketing strategy if they understand fluctuations in supply and the seasonality factor with a given location.