Lessons for the Future

Student housing faced a difficult start to the 2020-2021 academic year, but the sector has proven resilient as COVID-19 continues to sow uncertainty.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, colleges and universities across the U.S. switched to online learning and sent students home. In the following months, schools mapped out the 2020-21 academic year, with an emphasis on virtual learning as well as stringent safety measures to keep students socially distant. All of which would affect the demand, the value, and even the design of student housing. “Overall, the market has held up resoundingly well,” says Jaclyn Fitts, executive vice president for the national student housing team at CBRE. This fall, the company polled operators representing some 600,000 beds, a significant portion of the operators in the sector, says Fitts. “We looked at October 2019 versus October 2020, and overall, the sector is only about 3.5 percent behind in occupancy, year-over-year.” The new watchword for campus housing has become “de-densification.” Schools eased on-campus residency requirements, and many left dorms empty to use as quarantine space if needed. Research from Newmark shows similar trends. “Occupancies are within 250 to 300 basis points from where we were last year, which is pretty remarkable,” says Ryan Lang, vice chairman, multifamily capital markets, at Newmark. Click to read more at www.ccim.com.