Pro­vid­ing a place in which to live and learn

Stylish stu­dent accommodation has be­come more pre­cious than gold in Jo­han­nes­burg, writes Michelle Swart

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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

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