Partnerships between the private property sector and the country’s academic institutions is a credible solution to providing safe and affordable accommodation for thousands of students, says MD – Kirstin Schubach of student accommodation specialists, the Aengus Property Group.
Schubach was commenting after shortages of student accommodation led to protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) when hundreds of students were left on the street. UKZN registers up to 44 000 undergraduate and postgraduate students each year, but can only provide accommodation for 10 917 students – about 25 percent of its student body.
“Universities around the country are suffering from a shortage of student accommodation, mainly because of the massive investment needed to build and maintain student residences and the surge in the number of students attending tertiary institutions,” says Schubach. “Between 50-80% of students attending these institutions require accommodation, but there simply aren’t enough beds.”
Aengus currently owns and manages 30 student buildings around the country. In Durban, it has spent more than R4m converting old buildings into stylish student accommodation. It owns and manages three buildings near the Durban University of Technology and plans to open another, Aengus Doonside, near UKZN in May this year. This can accommodate another 154 students in two and three-sleeper units.
“Students are discerning consumers and are increasingly looking for clean, safe accommodation with all the modern conveniences at an affordable price,” says Schubach. “Our model is aimed at enabling students to work and play in a way that they’re able to get the most out of their tertiary education.”
Aengus is renowned for successfully pioneering the conversion of mothballed commercial buildings around South Africa into upmarket loft-style apartment buildings in close proximity to universities. Its units are fully furnished and kitchens fitted with fridges. To keep globally connected, each unit comes standard with Wi-Fi and free access to 300mb of data per month. Technology extends to security features, with buildings equipped with fingerprint access control and a 24-hour guard.
“The result is that our buildings in KwaZulu Natal are fully tenanted,” says Schubach. “We operate a tight ship, with stringent tenant selection criteria and governing rules for these buildings.”
All buildings are situated close to academic campuses, saving students and parents monthly transportation costs.
The buildings are maintained by Aengus Portfolio Management, a division of the Aengus Property Group, which has an impeccable track record of managing its students and keeping the buildings in good condition.
Students can expect to pay between R1800 and R2350 per month on a 10-month lease.
“There is clearly a dire shortage of decent student accommodation at South Africa’s tertiary institutions, but private players with property management experience and the balance sheet to invest in upgrading and maintaining buildings can positively contribute to improving the situation,” says Schubach. “This approach also frees up universities budgets and enables institutions to focus on their core business – educating students.”