Providing a place in which to live and learn
Stylish student accommodation has become more precious than gold in Johannesburg, writes Michelle Swart
PROPERTY developers are rejuvenating city centres across the country by turning old office blocks into upmarket accommodation for university students.
“Many universities no longer have enough space on their campuses to build new residences nor the funds to provide additional accommodation for increasing numbers of students,” says Richard Rubin, CEO of Aengus Property Holdings.
“The private sector is in an ideal position to step into the breach. New university residences can cost many times more for universities than engaging with private developers formally or informally,” says Rubin.
Government has set up a ministerial committee to review the provision of student housing. Out of a student population of 530 000 there is only enough accommodation for 100 000 students — 18% of the demand.
The department says although a larger portion of the infrastructure funding it provided had been earmarked for student accommodation, rising maintenance and ownership costs related to ageing residences, combined with the poor collection of student revenue by some universities, have limited the supply of accommodation.
The department says the lack of supply of student housing is the primary cause for poor performance and high dropout rates at some universities, with students forced to live in conditions not conducive to studying. This in turn has a detrimental impact on the throughput rate of universities.
Accommodation costs are also pushing university out of the reach of many disadvantaged students as rent eats up a major proportion of their monthly budgets.
“Studying away from home is simply not an option for many students with limited funds because they can’t access safe, secure and affordable accommodation,” says Rubin. “Many opt to stay in poorer areas or informal settlements and travel long distances to lectures each day instead, affecting their academic performance.”
Most students’ loans don’t cover accommodation expenses. Some students take out personal loans at higher interest rates to cover the costs of living closer to campus, leaving them with a big debt when they graduate.
However, agreements between Aengus and various tertiary institutions nationally offer students an alternative. After piloting their successful student accommodation model in Johannesburg with 10 buildings, the property development and management company purchased and converted 11 additional buildings in Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth to student apartments.
Aengus has concluded a number of transactions in Johannesburg, Kwazulu-natal and the Eastern Cape. As a pioneer in converting mothballed commercial buildings into stylish, modern and affordable loft apartments it has worked closely with the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg.
Aengus developments in Johannesburg’s Braamfontein area have been successful, with 100% occupancy rates for about 1 000 one-bedroom loft apartments.
This month Aengus is set to unveil a further seven loft apartments on the doorstep of Wits University. With 934 beds, the accommodation is also very close to other tertiary institutions.
Aengus also offers double rooms with en suite bathrooms that should appeal to older students or those who prefer more privacy. The units come fully furnished with beds, desks, fitted cupboards, kitchens with a fridge and Wi-fi. The buildings feature 24hour security with biometric fingerprint access control and onsite maintenance teams.
“The lofts are on average 30 paces from the campus, and given the security measures students can walk to campus any time of the day or night,” says Rubin.
Rental contracts are typically for 10 months of the year and vary from R1 950 to R2 500 a student a month. Not only does Aengus cater for accommodation during the academic year, student tenants qualify for discounts if they wish to stay in other Aengusowned student accommodation in the coastal cities of Durban and Port Elizabeth during the December and January holidays.
“This new offering is known as The Aengus Vacation Club, which we think will be a huge success and will add to the lifestyle offering of the brand,” says Rubin.
The loft apartments have a student touch, with trendy names such as LOL (Love Our Lofts) with 130 beds; KISS Lofts (Keepin It Slick And Stylin) which offers 208 beds; RAD Lofts (Right Across the Drag Lofts) with 200 beds; LMFAO Lofts (Lofts Made For All OK!, with 36 beds; JAW Lofts (Just Across The Way Lofts) with 216 beds; ACE Lofts (At Campus Early Lofts) with 100 beds and WTF! Lofts (Walk To and From Lofts) with 44 beds.
“Today’s students are more discerning than in the past and while they want the collegiate university experience they’re demanding all the modern conveniences they’ve become accustomed to,” says Rubin.
“And universities want to be able to offer their students safe, affordable accommodation close to university campuses.”
The upgrading of buildings has other positive spin-offs for city centres, creating student hubs in areas that were previously degenerating.
In Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth Aengus works with the city leadership in upgrading services in the area. Their developments form part of official city upgrading projects.
“These student developments help to improve security and bring in new customers who support retail outlets, restaurants and coffee shops,” says Rubin.
“Student accommodation is breathing new life into SA’S city centres.” Contact: Aengus Property Holdings 011 684 2676