The SHURE Initiative checked in with The Doctor of Student Housing, Mike Porritt, for analysis and review.

Doctor of Student Housing: Pay attention to the ‘trends within the trends’ for 2024

December 14, 2023

SHURE Initiative

The year is ending with significant macro uncertainty driven by wars in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and concerns over political instability in the U.S. However, positive signs like easing inflation will likely impact real estate activity. Lower inflation would prompt monetary officials to lower interest rates, which may spur more buying-and-selling activity but would likely affect the last few years’ record-setting rental demand and pricing.

In the student accommodation arena, there continues to be a focus on the impact of international students and the financial viability of secondary/regional institutions.

Mike Porritt, Vice President – International, Scion Advisory Services is The Doctor of Student Housing.

To end the year, The SHURE Initiative checked in with Dr. Mike Porritt of The Scion Group Advisory Services. Dr. Porritt, a sought-after industry expert, is a veteran of the university and student accommodation arenas, having worked on both sides of the game (for university and private developers).

 

Dr. Porritt offered his analysis in this SHURE Initiative interview.

 

SHURE: 2023 is concluding with continued market uncertainty. As the year ends, interest rates remain elevated, although there are indications that we could see rate reductions in 2024. Additional global conflict exists. Should PBSA executives be concerned?

DR. OF STUDENT HOUSING: Everyone should be concerned about global conflict and other global issues. In terms of PBSA – how that may play out in terms of countries allowing students from other countries into their country and disputes between a country that tends to send students and the country that tends to receive them will be specific concerns. In just the last few months, Australia, the U.K., and Canada have been discussing and implementing new rules about international students coming into their countries – policies related to the amount of money they must show (and what “show” means), work hours increasing or decreasing; and the consideration of caps on international students to help deal with domestic housing issues. None of these are minor issues for PBSA.

SHURE: Did you observe any interesting or unusual global trends in terms of enrollment in the past year in the G7 countries and Eurozone?

DR. OF STUDENT HOUSING: In multiple countries, the issue of international students booking numerous housing options and then leaving all but one of those PBSA providers with late cancellations or no-shows has been growing as a concern.

Enrollment in many countries continues to grow for international students, and in certain regions, the domestic population is growing. In Canada, the Fall 2025 year has long been identified as the year the domestic population for higher education starts to rise across the country, and those estimates look accurate.

Will governments limit the number of international students coming in? This is the big question in many countries that have seen significant increases in international students over the last decade. This is likely an important election issue in a few countries and is directly tied to housing issues, with student housing a part of it.

SHURE: What predictions did you have one year ago that have held up and come to fruition?

DR. OF STUDENT HOUSING: I have been talking to many people about how College and University students in Canada are two distinct groups with differences in housing needs. The results of several projects this year have made this very clear, and institutions are starting to take action within existing housing and planned housing by creating more shared bedrooms – especially on the College campuses. Developers in these markets will begin to consider the same thing. When the student population has significantly changed and continues to go in that direction, the market has to respond to the changes rather than continue fighting over the same students with the same product. Eventually, a developer will see the opportunity for a different housing model in the college-focused market and be very successful.

SHURE: What factors surprised you about 2023?

DR. OF STUDENT HOUSING: The Canadian government’s focus on international student numbers has been slightly surprising, and the concern about its connection to a housing crisis has been interesting. It is not like Canada (and other countries) could not see this housing crisis coming in the last decade(s), especially for more affordable housing.

The other surprise is that the very successful program to promote the creation of student housing beds on campus in British Columbia through low-interest government loans has yet to be copied by more governments. The idea was to get more students living on campus to free up space off campus for the city’s needs. It has worked and is in its second phase now.

SHURE: We have heard about a continued deterioration in enrollment and financial well-being of secondary market/regional and smaller private institutions in the U.S. How has this trend played out in 2023? How is it different in Canada?

DR. OF STUDENT HOUSING: The opposite is true in Canada as enrollment generally continues to increase, and the domestic population will rise in Fall 2025. There is always the danger that an over-reliance on international students puts Canada at risk for the implications of conflicts with another country. Saudi Arabia kept its students out of Canada a few years ago, and Canada’s disagreements with India this year were of note but have yet to impact flow from India). No one can afford to take enrollment management lightly, and PBSA leaders need to pay close attention to it. It is equally important to pay attention to the trends within the trends. Notably, in many countries, the enrollment increases are sector-specific, and those sectors have different housing needs.

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