Off-Campus Sector Gathers In Phoenix

by Katie Sloan

Phoenix — NMHC’s annual Student Housing Conference draws experts from around the industry.

Phoenix — Off-campus student housing developers, owners and managers convened in Phoenix on Monday and Tuesday this week for the National Multi-Housing Council’s annual Student Housing Conference, held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort. The high level conference featured panels and speakers centered around ownership structures, development, management concerns and investment sales. Monday afternoon’s state of the market opening panel, featuring leaders of top companies in the space, left the audience with an overall positive feeling about the sector. Panelists for the state of the market included ACC’s President and CEO Bill Bayless; Campus Apartments’ President and CEO David Adelman; EDR President and CEO Randy Churchey; Jared Schenk, principal of Schenk Realty; Brian Dinerstein, principal of The Dinerstein Companies; and Peter Stelian, managing director of Blue Vista Capital Management; and moderated by Marcus & Millichap’s Peter Katz. While there were some warnings issues, mainly about overbuilding in certain markets, panelists cited that with interest rates low and interest in multifamily properties high, the off-campus student housing sector has a number of positive benefits going for it.

Tuesday, a session featuring Julie Bonnin, chief operating officer of Asset Campus Housing; Michelle Fuller, senior director of real estate for Greystar; Casey Van Zandt, vice president of leasing and marketing for Campus Advantage; and Patton Jones, managing principal of ARA’s National Student Housing Group focused on top markets for student housing. Among those market named as having top lease-up rates and strong occupancy were Denton, Texas; Richmond, Va.; College Station, Texas; Columbia, Mo.; Lubbock, Texas; and Eugene, Ore. Not-so-hot markets for 2011-12 cited were College Park, Md.; Gainesville, Fla.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; and Lawrence, Kan.

A general session Tuesday also focused on student housing at community colleges. McKinley Inc., presented a case study with Washtenaw Community College in Michigan. The company has a relationship with the college where it is a preferred provider of housing for the college’s students.

A second general session panel focused on lease-up for the 2011-12 academic year. Panelists included Miles Orth, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Campus Apartments; Donna Preiss, CEO of The Preiss Company; and Bob Clark, President of Peak Campus Management. Both Preiss and Orth reported some concessions for various complexes this year.

“Everyone hates to use concessions, but there are markets where you have to do it,” said Orth.

Among the trends the panel noted were the increase in foreign students at off-campus housing. At one complex, Preiss noted that the company leased 150 beds to foreign students. Other panelists noted an increase in Hispanic student enrollment, citing there has been a 25 percent increase in Hispanic college students over the past eight years.

One of the closing breakout sessions on Tuesday focused on traditional multifamily owners fear of entering the student housing market. Panelists, including Andy Hogshead, CEO of The Collier Companies; Oliver Swan, managing partner of Treesdale Real Estate; and Jack Kern of Kern Investment Real Estate, noted the many differences between traditional multifamily and student housing operations. Specifically cited were the secondary/tertiary market nature of most student housing; the by-the-bed leasing model, and the phenomenon of “turn.”

Randall Shearin

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