Canadian Rental Housing Conference: Student Housing

CFAAI had the opportunity to take part in The Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations 2013 annual conference to present on Student Housing. Throughout the panel I focused on the Canadian post-secondary education sector and the implications on where students will live.

Currently, with nearly one-million students attending Canadian colleges and universities, there is a tangible need to accommodate these students – especially as this group becomes increasing increasingly diverse and international audience.
Student housing needs fluctuate based on the type of campus within a local community. It’s extremely important that accommodation providers (developers, property managers, and landlords) be knowledgeable about what students commute to-and-from campus and the on-campus residence capacity. All post-secondary institutes will fall within this “Student-Living Continuum” since students will need to live somewhere while attending college or university.

To one extreme, you have a 100% commuter student population where students are not utilizing local accommodations – they live at home, are professionals owning their own accommodations, or could be a “virtual” student. At the opposite end of this continuum, every student students will live within institutionally controlled properties that are typically located on campus.

student housing continuum

Campus type will help determine student housing demand

Neither extreme on that continuum is common as the student housing demand is determined by removing commuter students and on-campus residents; the remainder is students living in privately operated accommodations. These private accommodations are the existing rental stock in the community, converted family homes, and purpose built student housing. Many Canadian institutes are in their infanticides and housing for students is now mired in rental regulations, Town & Gown concerns, and the emerging Canadian purpose build student housing market.

Although some may feel the high-quality American student housing market has neither spread into Canada nor competing against past student housing, companies are now engraining themselves in the Canadian market and learning from their experiences in the American market.

Some accommodation providers might be threatened by this Americanization of student housing, but this represents an opportunity to diversify the student housing supply and improve upon past purpose built accommodations that had been created in Canada. Recently, in Waterloo, concerns have been raised surrounding the implication of student housing on the mental health of those in amenity poor accommodations that provide minimal social interaction for students.

Americanized student housing will diversity the student-housing supply, but is not be the only solution to student housing. By collaborating with post-secondary institutes, accommodation providers can satisfy the demand from students and the needs of local colleges and universities.

Outside of the classroom experiences impact a student’s experience and play a direct role in their academic successes. This is why off-campus housing and life programs will have a direct impact on student experiences, student retention, and quality of life within the community.

Accommodation providers have an opportunity to deliver a product the meets the needs of off-campus students and collaborate on services to support an exceptional student experience. If developers, property managers and landlords are up for this opportunity, they can engrain their accommodations in the culture of campus and have minimal worries about filling vacant beds.

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