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Real estate investors eye student housing

The Class of 2020 kicked off its schedule of events for this year at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London with a conference that looked at how companies can continue to invest in profitable assets such as student housing amidst the current housing crisis in Europe.

The student housing market is increasingly popular with investors though some call it a bubble. Photo: The Class of 2020

The most ‘youthful’ cities by 2030 are expected to be Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Toulouse, Oslo and Dublin

According to The Class, community leading investors plan to spend €25 billion globally over the next 3-5 years in niche residential ‘blended living’ asset classes.

“Designing efficient, liveable, and high-quality homes has to be prioritised”

Speaking at the Pan European Summit on February 24, Yolande Barnes from UCL’s Bartlett Real Estate Institute opened the session with a talk on how “alternatives are the new core”.

She called for real estate investors to take a longer-term approach to assess value, opportunity and risk in real estate while a panel discussed how affordability, convenience and flexibility, mental health and wellbeing and increased mobility are changing the way investors should view housing.

“Building large homes is expensive and living in them is unaffordable for an increasing portion of the population,” noted Adina David, director of flexible housing at Greystar.

“Designing efficient, liveable, and high-quality homes has to be prioritised by our industry.”

While markets like Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands remain attractive due to their liquidity, the afternoon panel also emphasised the importance of looking at cities as individual areas rather than looking at countries as a whole given the vast difference between different regions.

The most ‘youthful’ cities by 2030 are expected to be Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Toulouse, Oslo and Dublin, while the most ‘aged’ will be Genova, Dresden, Bilbao, Leipzig and Valletta.

Student housing was also praised for its adaptability in that it can easily be turned into other residential buildings or offices, ensuring that an investment can remain profitable even as markets change.

Outside the sector, the student housing rush is not without its critics, however, with one Financial Times article last year referring to it as a ‘bubble’ that in the UK has stoked concern about poor quality and further exacerbating the shortage of affordable housing.

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