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The Current State of Student Housing
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Student Housing of America, Inc. (SHA) and similar organizations provide safe, affordable residential housing for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other educational institutions. The importance of student housing has never been more evident than now. It is rapidly becoming a significant component of the commercial real estate market in the United States. According to a 2023 Berkadia report, student housing sales volume was $22 billion in 2022. Student housing is especially critical for HBCUs since these institutions have typically been underfunded at the state and federal levels for decades but are experiencing unprecedented enrollments. The rise in enrollment, coupled with low government funding, has resulted in students at HBCUs struggling to maintain safe and affordable housing, leaving many of them homeless.

Recently, SHA launched its “HBCU Healthy Housing” (H3) initiative, which focuses on establishing high-quality housing and creating a support infrastructure for HBCU students so students can focus on excelling in their academic requirements. SHA partners with Emet Capital Management and HBCUs to renovate distressed properties to provide state-of-the-art, safe, and affordable housing for college students. Support services are offered in the form of need-based grants, zero-interest loans, mental health, physical wellness, financial management, and security. SHA also provides rent insurance and positive credit reporting so student residents are not affected by bad credit stemming from unpaid rent, helping to ensure a future with no setbacks.

Understanding the current state of student housing includes knowing how housing conditions can play a significant role in the educational success of college students. Having adequate housing affords students the opportunity to focus on academics and meaningfully engage in college activities supporting student development. Given the importance of student housing, it is necessary to examine trends that impact its need, availability, and quality.

According to research, there are several drivers of current student housing needs. Four such drivers are detailed here. First, the Covid-19 pandemic generated a need for more individual spaces in student housing due to social distancing and related public health precautions.

Second, undergraduate enrollments at U.S. degree-granting colleges and universities are projected to increase. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), undergraduate enrollment is expected to increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030. This projected increase, coupled with estimates for rising postbaccalaureate enrollments over the same timeframe, highlights the need to develop quality housing for both groups of students.

Third, housing constraints, such as older campus housing facilities in need of repair (or nearing obsolescence) coupled with increasing demand, means there will continue to be insufficient available housing to meet the needs of current and future college students. Finally, colleges and universities compete for students. Therefore, the quality and type of student housing may make one institution more favorable to students (and their parents) than another with older housing stock or less modern amenities. These institutions must make provisions for quality student housing to stay competitive.

Quality student housing has three primary components: providing community, enhancing safety, and empowering education. Current student housing trends are in line with the aforementioned features. Five trends are detailed below.

First, students desire both privacy and a sense of community, especially when it comes to health and wellness. With respect to privacy, students seek single bedrooms with private bathrooms. Current trends meet such desires by offering micro or studio unit accommodations. In terms of fostering community, students desire opportunities to engage with other students. To maximize a sense of community, designing ample study spaces (public and private) and outdoor areas to gather for both social and academic purposes is on trend. Features such as rooftop spaces, conference rooms, and classroom space within the building and incorporating mixed-use retail are also desirable amenities in student housing.

Second, technology features are key. Students desire connectivity everywhere, so seamless, reliable Internet functionality is important. Providing multiple Wi-Fi access points through a managed Wi-Fi system is a must for student housing. This feature not only supports aspects such as online or hybrid learning; it also supports safety features like keyless entry and cameras.

Third, designing accommodations with sustainability features is paramount. Many developments are seeking to attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status. Also, designing for ample natural lighting (i.e., floor-to-ceiling windows) and providing high-quality ventilation systems, smart windows and thermostats is important. In addition, providing students with recycling and composting features helps minimize their carbon footprint.

Fourth, since current college students are accustomed to online shopping (including for their academic books), designing package rooms for easy delivery and pick-up is necessary. Package rooms are often accessible around the clock and require some security credentials for entry, which helps reduce the chances of theft.

Finally, access to transportation is on trend as well. Students are inclined to prefer housing in close proximity to campus. Locating housing within walking/biking distance to campus and/or near local transportation or campus shuttle routes is a desirable feature.

SHA is committed to building strong relationships with the HBCU community and a healthy environment for students through affordable housing and supportive programs. With the support of like-minded organizations, investors, and donors, SHA will continue to grow and move its mission forward. SHA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Consider making a charitable donation to SHA to support its mission. All donations will afford the organization the opportunity to meet and expand its mission of providing high-quality, affordable housing and will greatly benefit HBCU students and their academic endeavors.

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