Research article

Student housing REITs

A further sign of the maturity of the sector is the rise of dedicated student housing REITs

Following EdR’s acquisition by Greystar, American Campus Communities (ACC) is the only publicly traded student housing REIT in the US. ACC is the largest owner and manager of student housing in the United States, with over 200 properties in operation.

Since 2014, the REIT has performed broadly in line with real estate sector benchmarks. In recent years the company has maintained the quality of its portfolio by selling old assets and focused on development on or close to university campuses.

Meanwhile student REITs and publicly listed student housing operators in the UK have continued to outperform the real estate market in general. The largest, Unite Group PLC has performed particularly well, growing with a focus on university partnerships. Unite also has over 6,500 beds in the pipeline to 2022, increasing the company’s exposure to high and mid-tier universities across the UK.

Figure 5

US and UK student housing REITs vs All REITs indices
Source: Savills Research using FTSE Russell and investor information | Components: US REIT – American Campus Communities (NYSE:ACC); UK REITs – Empiric Student Property (LON: ESP), GCP Student Living (LON: DIGS), Unite Group (LON: UTG)


Yields have decreased as the sector has matured and attracted a deeper pool of investors. Less developed countries still present opportunities for yield-seeking investors. In markets such as Australia and some less mature European markets, there is potential for yields to decrease further. Even in more mature markets where student housing appears more fully valued, the sector still offers returns well above government bonds.

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