COVID Is Accelerating a Revolution in Pupil Housing

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COVID Is Accelerating a Revolution in Student Housing

Today's newer dormitory is much more modern than the old buildings on campus with shared bathrooms at the end of the hall.

This is important in the COVID-19 era.

"In some cases, the functionally outdated dorms with the bathrooms in the hallway do not meet CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] regulations," said Jaclyn Fitts, executive vice president at CBRE, co-director of CBRE National Student Housing team on CBRE podcast The Weekly Take.

Eventually, Fitts believes that these dorms will eventually be taken offline and replaced with newer enclosures that may be functional in an environment with a dangerous virus.

Bill Bayless, the CEO of American Campus Communities, which has 135,000 students in 93 locations across America, says his rental collections have been much stronger because his typical four-bedroom unit gives students the opportunity to be socially detached.

"They can be quarantined," Bayless said on CBRE's The Weekly Take. “You can isolate. You can disinfect yourself. There was no panic at all. "

In fact, ACC's communities have attracted new residents during the pandemic. “When the universities panicked in March and April and told students to leave, and the dorms on campus of this older quality we actually took in a thousand new residents in the middle of an academic year…” says Bayless. “The modernization of the dormitory really helped the university. And that was one of the reasons they were able to reopen this fall. They realized we have all this great modern product. "

In the 68 markets he operates in, 40 percent of universities have older dorms with shared bathrooms, according to Bayless. He says ACC and other companies have the opportunity to modernize these facilities. "There will likely be a second building boom on campus after COVID," he says.

According to Bayless, ACC worked in on-campus communities with shared bathrooms during the pandemic. But the universities it worked with wanted to change direction.

"We moved away from that," says Bayless. "And now it's on to the suite-style bathroom."

During COVID, ACC conducted a facility analysis in which the company looked at how design and finishes could be changed to ensure self-disinfection. Regardless of what new buildings will do, Bayless doesn't think student developers "will ever approach how we design products and think about products without all of the lessons we learned in COVID".

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