In a webinar released Monday, Student Housing Business spoke with Bill Bayless, CEO of American Campus Communities (ACC), about the company’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), pre-leasing for the upcoming academic year and his outlook for the road ahead.
With over 100,000 beds of owned and operated student housing across 92 universities, ACC was forced act quickly at the onset of the pandemic to ensure they were meeting the needs of all stakeholders involved, including students, parents and university partners.
The company’s approach held compassion at the helm, with a focus on ensuring that every student living in one of ACC’s properties had a home. “At American Campus, we have 10 values and value number four is ‘do the right thing,’” said Bayless. “We wanted our team to keep that value at the forefront of their mind so that we would be able to look back three and six months from now and say that we have done the right things. Everyone could see that the economic fallout from this was going to be catastrophic. As a company, we decided before any mandates by government entities were issued that we were going to be compassionate.”
Working from a place of compassion, ACC began by not enforcing any financial-related evictions. “We are waiving late fees, online payment fees and credit reporting related to financial matters, but we wanted to do more,” says Bayless. “Ultimately, we came up with a pledge that — regardless of your ability to pay on a timely basis — every student will continue to have a home. We didn’t want anyone to pick up and leave their apartments because of economic concerns, when in many cases, staying in their college apartment with all of the technology available was better suited for their success in taking online classes.”
ACC is also offering a relief program consisting of rent forgiveness, deferred payment schedules and payment plans. “We have had 2,985 students apply for assistance out of our 135,000 residents — not a huge percentage,” says Bayless. “Through our application process, we were able to ask our residents about their personal situation and their parents’ personal situation in terms of what the economic hardship was that they were facing, whether it be a decrease in an independent contractor business, struggles in a small business or unemployment.”
For more from Bill Bayless, listen to the webinar in full.