Finding affordable student accommodation is challenging, this is the result of multiple issues. However, there are numerous plans in place to help combat this issue.
The Ministerial Review of Student Housing at Universities that was conducted in 2011 first revealed the true scale of the problem and projected that by 2016 the overall bed shortage would reach 216 000 with an additional 400 000 beds required by 2030.
At the Department of Higher Education and Training’s first student housing symposium held in Pretoria in July this year, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande called for “big and bold” solutions to tackle the backlog of student accommodation.
In February 2016, UCT vice-chancellor, Dr Max Price announced that the university would only able to accept 6 600 of the 21 469 accommodation applications that year and, with the city’s buoyant property market and steep monthly rentals in stark contrast to the subdued national economy, the scramble for student housing has become an insurmountable hurdle for many.
However, those willing to look a little further afield than a university or college’s doorstep will find a new trend emerging of purpose-built, modern and affordable of student accommodation that offers parents peace of mind while students enjoy a secure, upmarket lifestyle in a calm environment just a short distance away from campus – usually with the convenience of being within walking distance of public transport hubs, shops and entertainment facilities.
These purpose-built developments are a far cry from the very basic, often run-down campus residences and instead give students perks like free Wi-Fi, shuttle services, security, laundries and trendy spaces.
In the Cape Town CBD, establishments like 91 Loop and Student at Home are already testimony to the success of this emergent trend that’s now moved into the city’s Southern Suburbs with the recent launch of My Domain Student Living in the vibrant heart of Wynberg.
And this innovative concept is also proliferating in Johannesburg and Durban, where old office buildings have been renovated and modernised to create bespoke student accommodation. Established in Braamfontein in 2003, South Point is one of the pioneers in purpose-built student digs that doesn’t just offer a bed. The company’s offering has become so popular that it’s expanded operations to KZN and inspired several other developments of a similar nature.
Creating living spaces that will inspire millennials isn’t that straightforward, according to Giancarlo Lanfranchi, CEO Of Swish Property Group and owner and founder of My Domain Student Living. “One of the most critical issues is ensuring reliable, free or low-cost Wi-Fi access that works in every corner of your space. This is a deal-breaker for most students who are accommodation-hunting, as is a private bathroom.
“We’ve gone the extra mile in that regard with each room boasting bespoke modular bathroom pods that are not only functional but funky as well, and our students love them.” Lanfranchi says parents have an entirely different wish list, though.
“Parents are understandably wary of sending their children, especially first years, out into the big bad world to fend for themselves so anyone creating purpose-built private student accommodation needs to ensure that security and on-site services are top notch, but at a reasonable price point.
“Comfort and in-room facilities are on the list for both parents and kids, as are storage and space. The latter is one of the design aspects we managed carefully when we developed My Domain, because while legal prescriptions dictate a minimum room sizes of 8m², our smallest room is a 14m² studio at R3 850 per month. The largest of the four single studio options is a 25m² Deluxe Studio, which costs R5 250 per month. There is also a 25m² twin studio and a 50m² two bedroom unit.”
To draw the younger market each residential floor has an allocated break-away lounge and there is also a communal entertainment area with big screen TVs, foosball and pool tables. Students also have access to a free shuttle service to campus, an on-site laundry and fully-equipped gym.
Angelo Lanfranchi, Operational Director and co-owner of My Domain says parents should and will usually have numerous questions around security when they’re accommodation-hunting, especially when their children are first-years.
“Security is of prime importance and if you’re offering student accommodation you need to get this right. We have implemented several stringent measures to ensure our students’ safety including a 24-hour security desk at the entrance. Each floor is also key card access-controlled and limited to those who live there, and entry into the secure parking garage and thereafter the reception area requires card scanning as well. This is in addition to the full public space CCTV monitoring, which is done on and off site.”
Recognising the dire need for student accommodation, the group has already earmarked other properties to achieve their goal of 1 500 rooms in Cape Town over the next 24-36 months, which is in line with a study conducted last year by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
The survey of the 50 public Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges across South Africa revealed that for the 710 000 college students there were only 10 120 beds provided by the tertiary institutions. Colleges can therefore provide accommodation for only 1.4 percent of students or one in 70 students, making private student accommodation an essential part of the service chain and a must for parents to consider if their children are going away to study.
If you're struggling to find available student accommodation, then consider looking into private, off-campus housing that comes with all the modern perks at affordable prices.