Student housing set for another bumper year

Scape Living paid $13.5 million for a Toowong site on which it is building student accommodation.

Scape Student Living is capitalising on a surge in international and local students in Queensland by opening its Toowong development in Brisbane almost six months early, in time for the start of the 2019 academic year.

The group owns 14 student accommodation developments in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and has 5500 more rooms under construction and at the planning stage.

It is forging ahead with its business model targeting students, avoiding the slump in Brisbane’s unit market.

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Scape Australia chairman Craig Carracher says Brisbane is “responding well” to the demand from Queensland and interstate students, as well as tapping into the extraordinary growth in international student numbers in the city.

“The changing demand profile of international students in favour of purpose-built student accommodation over the risks inherent in homestay arrangements and private residential bookings is becoming increasingly apparent,” he says.

Carracher says students who have previously taken up homestay and private rentals are “starting to transition to the purpose-built student offerings”.

Operators have cited their convenience, service and safety advantages over other forms of housing that are not tailored to student needs.

Originally slated to open in July, the 751-bedroom development at 611 Coronation Drive backs on to the Toowong Shopping Village and is near the University of Queensland and QUT.

Scape Living’s Toowong site in Brisbane.

Scape launched another complex at Southbank with 788 bedrooms in April last year and reached more than 75% occupancy in its first year after opening mid-semester. The complex’s shared apartments are now full for this year.

Carracher says bringing forward the opening of Scape Toowong is important to meet the demand for shared apartments, particularly for Univer­sity of Queensland students.

The apartments can accommodate up to eight students, each with their own rooms, and offer extensive living spaces, entertainment and study areas.

The opening will boost Scape’s Brisbane bed numbers to almost 1600. It also has another development site at Southbank adjacent to its existing 788-bed project.

“While some in our industry are less confident of Brisbane as a long-term international student market … (it) continues to enjoy around 7 per cent growth in international and domestic student numbers,” Carracher says.

Even if all the student projects in the city are built, there are still more than six international students for every specialist room and nine for each top-class room, well below ratios in London where Scape also operates.

“The Australian purpose-built student accommodation market is maturing and the segmentation in the sector is becoming more transparent to the student consumer,” Carracher says.

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