The Student Housing Boom: Design and Development Outlook

Date Posted: 03.06.2018

Urban Land

The current issue of Urban Land magazine features Mithun projects and partner Bill LaPatra in an article exploring market influences and changing investment patterns in the U.S. student housing market, which remained strong in 2017.

Writer Kevin Brass attributes the ongoing boom to a perfect storm of converging trends—campus enrollment growth; escalating competition to attract students; and consistent yields for student housing that often surpass those for multifamily projects. To highlight the scale of demand: the number of people in the United States studying for a postsecondary degree increased from 6.6 million in 1990 to 20.4 million in 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

After years of rapid growth, change is in the air. The student housing market is starting to mature to “more normalized investment cycles,” yields are shrinking amidst rising development costs, and some developers are adjusting their strategies. Additionally, universities are increasingly looking to design-build delivery and public/private partnerships (P3) to redevelop outdated residential properties.

What are the design implications of this boom and changing market pressures? Writer Kevin Brass turns to Bill LaPatra for insights into the next big amenity in student housing: “Campuses are looking for new ways to include collaborative spaces, incorporating learning environments into the living areas.… [B]edrooms are getting smaller in many designs, but social spaces are growing larger.”

“We’re trying to give students flexibility,” Bill explains.

Living and learning are increasingly blurred with the expansion of collaborative and digital learning programs, and students’ desire for alternate study environments. At the University of California, Irvine Mesa Court Towers, educational and recreation spaces are interspersed to create a vibrant nexus of student life around the clock. In addition to dispersed residential lounges and a more-traditional study room, the bustling ground-floor café serves as flexible learning environment and social connector, enriching the campus experience.

Bill continues in the article: “With housing a key recruiting tool for universities, facilities are taking a more holistic approach to catering to tenants.… ‘Academic, social cohesion, wellness—they are all being infused into housing.’”

This trend is illustrated by Mithun’s current work with the University of California San Diego on their $211 million, 1,374-bed Nuevo East Graduate Student Housing. Residential spaces are anchored by the Exchange, a dynamic student resource center with multi-purpose amenity and gathering spaces, university offices and support programs to promote health and wellness.

Read the full article, “Boom in U.S. Student Housing Deals Seems Far from Over,” in Urban Land.