Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  21 Jan 2011

PROPERTY: High Demand for Upmarket Student Accommodation in JHB


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As events over this past week have shown, the demand for a place at the University of Johannesburg is at an all-time high. With queues of people trying to apply blocking the road getting to and from campus has never been more difficult. As a result, it is unsurprising that more and more people are looking for student accommodation close to Johannesburg’s main university campuses. Thousands more students are registering at tertiary institutions in Johannesburg and they’re battling to find accommodation.

“Student population growth has far outstripped the supply of available rooms, making it difficult to find quality accommodation at an affordable price,” says Simon Rubin, marketing director of Aengus Property Management (APM), an inner-city developer renowned for turning defunct buildings into upmarket accommodation.

The problem is so critical in fact, that the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Bonginkosi Nzimande, has established a committee to review the provision of student housing in the public university education system.

In his keynote address to the Stakeholder Summit on Higher Education Transformation held in April 2010 at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Dr Nzimande singled out poor student accommodation and living conditions as one of the reasons for the low success and high drop-out rates in tertiary education.

The minister said that the current provision of student housing in residences is approximately 100 000 for a student population of 530 000. On average, just under 20% of students, nationally, will be able to find accommodation on campus.

Yet on-campus accommodation may not necessarily be accessible. “Of-campus providers are cropping up but students are becoming more discerning,” says Rubin. “While they demand value for money for accommodation, they are no longer prepared to accept low-quality accommodation with limited amenities, just because they are studying.”

APM’s buildings have filled a gap in the student market by providing student accommodation that is at once safe, convenient and affordable, while being a cut above the rest. Rubin says APM is fanatical about the standard of accommodation it provides, steering clear of dormitory-style accommodation where tenants may have to share facilities with too many other students “We continue to provide the market with well-equipped units with superior facilities,” he says.

It is this no-compromise approach that has forged APM’s trusted reputation. Since 2005, it has been converting inner city properties around Braamfontein into classy student units, complete with high quality finishes such as granite kitchen counters and wooden flooring. And it was one of the first developers to incorporate additional luxuries such as Wi-fi access and plasma TVs as part of the deal.

The company now has over 2 000 student beds, including one- and two-bed apartments, as well as studio apartments, complete with modern bathrooms and communal kitchens, in a mixture of developments.

One of these is The Argyle Precinct, an entire city block within walking distance of Wits, now transformed into 427 up-market, one-bedroom and studio apartments designed with student living in mind.

Then there’s Parktown Views, another of APM’s developments, houses over 150 students, and the most recent development is the historic YMCA building on Rissik and Smit Streets. Contemporary, sleek and with all the trimmings, the new YMCA will be completed by intake 2011 and will add another 240 apartments to the pool of student accommodation.

Rubin says the ideal student accommodation should provide a private space for studying as well as opportunities for socialising and getting together with friends. “Our developments also take into account that it’s important for students to live somewhere that is conveniently situated for day-to-day activities such as lectures, sport and socialising, as well as routine necessities such as shopping and doing laundry,” he says.

All APM’s buildings are ideally situated, within walking distance of both tertiary institutions and other amenities. In some buildings, walking is not even required, with convenience stores and laundries on site. The Gautrain’s Park Station, due to be fully operational by 2011, is also conveniently close.

The buildings are also designed with the student tenant in mind. “Security, administration and management remain central to our operational model,” says Rubin. Each building is professionally managed, ensuring it is optimally maintained, clean, safe and secure. “We have 24-hour security and tightly controlled access, and can also provide underground parking,” he says.

Yet despite all these facilities and additional benefits, APM’s student units cost little more than university residence accommodation. Priced between R1 650 and R2 500 per student per month, it is no wonder that APM has an extensive waiting list for all its up-market buildings.

Rubin advises corporates to move quickly if they are looking for top-notch accommodation for bursary students attending the Johannesburg Universities and colleges. “Demand always outstrips supply in our buildings,” he says. “With our main rental thrust taking place in January and February, I would advise anyone seeking an affordable, upmarket alternative to traditional student accommodation, to get onto our waiting lists as soon as possible.”

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