The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a major impact on all aspects of on- and off-campus student housing. In an attempt to better assess that impact and the sector’s outlook for the future, Student Housing Business conducted a survey of industry professionals over the course of several weeks in May.
The survey was separated by industry function for specific elements of the business, allowing SHB to better understand the pandemic’s distinct influence on each segment of the industry. Of the survey’s 569 respondents, 39 defined their company’s role in the industry as that of a developer or contractor. In this segment of the industry, 17 percent of companies let go of or furloughed employees at the corporate level and instituted pay cuts.
Student housing development has continued to move forward throughout the pandemic, with 83 percent of respondents indicating that construction is still continuing on their projects. Of those with projects still underway, 63 percent indicated that they had faced slowdowns due to COVID-19.
When asked if any of the companies’ development projects had been halted, 53 percent of respondents indicated that they had not. Of the 37 percent that have had a project halted, most indicated that construction had been slowed from three to eight weeks. Only one participant noted that their company’s projects had been halted through the end of 2020.
Looking forward, responses were an even split on whether or not any of the projects in their company’s development pipeline had been pushed back or shelved — 47 percent indicated yes and 47 percent indicated no. While this mixed response might suggest a decline in new development over the coming year, 89 percent of respondents indicated that their companies were still looking at land acquisition for potential new projects.
From a design perspective, 60 percent of those polled believe there is going to be an impact on new projects in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents expect to see designs featuring larger shared amenity spaces for greater social distancing, more single-occupancy rooms and private bathrooms, an uptick in contactless systems and the inclusion of spaces that can be repurposed during times of crisis.
When asked about the future of shared amenity spaces, the vast majority of respondents indicated that they would likely remain the same or look slightly different, but that they would still be included in designs moving forward.
Student Housing Business will be covering the results of our survey in weekly installments. Check back next week for results from the perspective of investment sales brokers.
— Katie Sloan