Malaysia leads booming student accommodation demand

An artist’s impression of a Scape development.
An artist’s impression of a Scape development.

Student accommodation company Scape is experiencing strong demand from overseas markets seeking top-quality facilities.

The company, which has laid out ambitious plans for a precinct-style development near the University of NSW in Sydney, is bullish about rising Asian markets, and is building to meet the needs of the latest student cohort.

The group is also offering a stable and growing option for students at a time when the industry is in flux, with the Atira and Urbanest platforms in play. The company has 18 developments in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with 5500 rooms under construction. It is planning a further 2350 rooms.

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It has just acquired a portfolio of sites in Kensington and Kingsford at the UNSW that will become a $1 billion precinct.

Scape Australia executive chairman Craig Carracher says students from countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia are driving demand.

He cites favourable visa access deals struck with Malaysia.

Carracher cautions that growth might not remain as high but argues bed numbers are still not keeping up.

“At present the total number of new students is still a multiple of the number of beds being delivered in the purpose-built student accommodation space,” he says.

Scape Australia executive chairman Craig Carracher. Picture: Aaron Francis.

International, interstate and intrastate cohorts could not all be accommodated, with the gap between demand and supply still growing.

Specialist facilities, rather than homestay or residential units, were being targeted, partly as universities and agents worked to meet their requirements of duty of care to students. Carracher has identified building branded student accommodation as a key differentiator for Scape.

“We are focused on spending more on service standards, security and safety, and quality of offering,” he says.

The group is putting its efforts into securing key sites and outspends many rivals as it has identified that location is vital.

“The integration of business, education and accommodation is the key to sustainable demand from students that want the best from their city of choice, the best from their university of choice and the best environment to allow them to get the most from the experience,” he says.

Carracher is driving a shift beyond a “build it and they will come” mentality and argues that Australia will compete on merit by providing a full lifestyle experience for international students.

“The top quartile of students in terms of demographic and affordability is increasing as we compete with Britain and the US— our biggest competitors — and continue the multi-generational story that is Australia’s inter­national education export centre,” he says.

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