The need for more custom-designed student accommodation is a universal one, and universities in South Africa and abroad are looking for effective alternative additions to their own facilities, with new development limited by on-campus space, and demand on financial resources.
“Student housing can be a complex sector, but it is one that has already shown its value for students who have benefited from the safe, affordable accommodation, and belonging to the community it creates. It alleviates the pressure on the universities by providing much needed capacity, and motivates investors who have seen the importance and potential of these projects,” says Craig McMurray, CEO of Respublica.
“Our South African portfolio is currently growing, with three new residences having opened their doors in time for the 2017 academic year, and we’re preparing to offer our student-centric residence management services to universities abroad in the future too.”
During the last year, JSE-listed real estate investment trust Redefine Properties acquired a 51 percent stake in Respublica, which has given the company the boost it needed to proceed with its target of offering as many as 10,000 student beds by the end of 2018.
Currently offering approximately 6 400 beds to students in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Midrand, Respublica has completed the first two of four residence buildings as part of the Hatfield Square redevelopment project in Pretoria. Subsequent phases will be complete by the end of 2017 and by mid-2018.
It has also completed the first phase of redeveloping an office park on Empire Road, on the doorstep of the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, which houses 330 students from WITS. A subsequent phase of Yale Village will be developed in 2017, intended to add an additional 900 beds to the student community. Respublica has also brought to market the redevelopment of Princeton House, on the campus of Pearson International College in Midrand.
With student accommodation being a challenge faced by all campuses, Respublica will be expanding its footprint nationally, with residence projects set to launch in Bloemfontein near the University of the Free State in 2018, and in Pietermaritzburg during the same year. Plans for the development of student accommodation in Cape Town are also well underway, with projects in this city anticipated to open their doors to students by 2019.
All Respublica facilities offer a wide choice of accommodation types ranging from shared or single bedrooms, through to multiple bedroom and studio apartments, and all accommodation types enjoy access to the facilities needed for students to focus on their studies. These include bio-metric security access control, canteens, recreation rooms, gyms, swimming pools, uncapped Wi-Fi, computer laboratories and study areas. An integrated res life programme helps students adapt to university living, reducing the rate of first year drop outs caused by social challenges.
“Respublica is also involved with partners in Australia, where students and universities are faced with similar challenges as a result of accommodation shortages,” McMurray explains. “We’re partnering with local property developers and established funds to bring Respublica’s specialised student management expertise those areas, producing vibrant student communities that are sought after and that will deliver sustainable property owners’ return on investment too.”
Respublica’s portfolio of residences includes Saratoga Village and The Fields in Doornfontein, which provide accommodation for University of Johannesburg, Central Johannesburg College and University of the Witwatersrand students. Yale Village is situated in Empire Road across from the University of the Witwatersrand. In Midrand, Princeton House accommodates students from Pearson International (formerly MGI). In Pretoria, West City, Eastwood Village, Urban Nest and Hatfield Square accommodate students from Tshwane University of Technology and University of Pretoria.