One expanding housing market: upscale, off-campus college housing

Several builders are preparing for an area of the housing market that is set to expand: upscale, off-campus housing for college students.

These days the companies have begun to build upscale houses with bedrooms clustered around gourmet kitchens and access to amenity-filled clubhouses. Known as cottage-style housing, the relatively new product is becoming popular with operators and students.

Nationwide, there are 35 cottage communities with nearly 19,000 beds. Another 18 are under way or in the works, with roughly 12,000 beds, said Wes Rogers, chief executive of Landmark Properties Inc., which has built roughly one-third of the cottages in the U.S. While cottage-style housing represents a small percentage of the nearly 500,000 beds controlled by the sector’s top companies, industry watchers expect the bed count to increase as the product catches on…

Developers are building these properties to house an expanding student population: More than three million high-school students are expected to graduate annually until the 2018-19 academic year, well above the roughly 2.5 million graduating in 1993-1994, according to the Department of Education.

Moreover, universities don’t have enough beds and much of the current supply, tall towers with communal bathrooms, has lost favor among the McMansion generation. Schools, many struggling with budget cuts, can’t afford to build new dorms.

It’s not college, it’s luxury living! Or at least a small approximation of it.

A few thoughts about this:

1. Assuming this off-campus housing expansion continues, does this mean colleges will have to engage in an arms race for housing to keep dorms occupied? In other words, these nicer off-campus opportunities might impede campus cash flows if more students are drawn out of dorms.

2. The article doesn’t talk about this but could this lead to more of a have vs. have-not attitude on campus? Not everyone can access this kind of living quarters.

3. I wonder if better housing has any positive effect on student learning and development. Do students act differently if the (off-campus) housing is nicer?

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