Continuing housing crunch opens the door to innovation and new strategies
As the higher education industry worldwide faces an acute shortage of student housing, a range of new approaches and innovative strategies are coming to the fore. The ever-increasing demand for affordable student accommodation is putting pressure on local housing markets, making housing a significant factor influencing students’ study abroad decisions. This situation has been further accentuated by the pandemic, which has triggered a lot of renovations and new construction, leading to higher office vacancy rates in many cities. This article explores some of the latest initiatives and strategies that are intended to address the rising housing crisis.
The conversion solution
The challenges of converting commercial buildings to purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) have prompted innovators to look for new solutions. Efforts are already being made in many cities to convert office buildings into housing. In Canada, for instance, this includes cities such as Calgary, London, Halifax, Toronto, and Yellowknife. Although not all commercial buildings can be efficiently converted to housing, these initiatives are already offering partial solutions to local housing crises.
A different approach, however, is being piloted in the Netherlands, where a new start-up called Floating Students has launched a novel approach to increase student housing. The firm is converting river barges into student accommodations, providing a more sustainable solution that reduces waste and improves housing availability and density. Floating Students aims to address the shortage of housing shortage, which has been estimated at up to 22,000 student beds in the Netherlands, job scarcity, and wastage.
New tech services for co-living
New online services are springing up to match those seeking housing with people with rooms or entire units to spare. These sites, such as Habyt and LifeX, are leading to renewed interest in shared housing. Habyt, for example, claims locations in over 40 cities across 14 countries and has over 30,000 units that include co-living spaces, studios, and traditional rental apartments. The company has reported three-fold growth in 2022, with a doubling of its business volumes projected for 2023.
LifeX offers a definition of co-living as “a modern form of shared housing; it’s a way to live and share a home with other like-minded people…What all these co-living concepts have in common is the desire to offer a more community-oriented lifestyle.”
Another Australian initiative combines the concept of shared housing with an option to reduce rent costs by contributing to household chores. The Room Xchange estimates that up to 13.5 million unused bedrooms in around 10 million homes across Australia could be used to help address the housing shortage while enabling people to save money.
Collaboration and Financial Incentives
Another innovative approach is seeing University administrators partnering with local housing organizations and giving financial incentives to students. Many institutions are now partnering with private firms to build new dormitories and apartment complexes. An excellent example of this is the University of California, Davis, which developed the West Village apartments through a public-private partnership. The institution also gives financial support to students who opt to live off-campus.
The ongoing student housing crisis is a pressing issue for students and educational institutions worldwide. The pandemic has further highlighted the need for sustainable strategies and innovations to address the shortfall in affordable student housing. The initiatives and ideas, as discussed in this article, represent a significant shift in efforts to resolve the crisis, including transforming commercial buildings, floating housing projects, co-living arrangements, and collaborations with local housing organizations. As we look to the future, it is becoming more apparent that international educators must give greater weight to expanding housing capacity and considering innovative strategies to solve this problem finally.
1. Annual growth in the number of international students in the United States increased from 1.5 million to 1.9 million between 2010 and 2020.
2. The average price of a studio apartment in New York City increased from $1,579 in 2010 to $2,666 in 2020.
3. The global value of housing investments in 2022 exceeded $33.5 billion.
The ongoing housing crisis has been a significant problem across many student destinations. New strategies and innovations include floating housing, conversion of commercial properties and co-living arrangements. These initiatives represent a significant shift in efforts to resolve the crisis finally. Expanding housing capacity must become a priority for educators, policymakers and investors as they work to address the housing crisis over the longer term.