The days of building a student accommodation development, filling the rooms and waiting for the rental payments to cash in are over. With more and more competition, developments can be tough to fill so providers must have a unique selling point. Here at CityBlock we put a real emphasis on student wellbeing; and we believe that’s one of the reasons our properties fill up so quickly.
Students now value much more than luxury pads, equipped with hot tubs, top of the range interiors and on-site chefs; they want to know their wellbeing is being looked after too. As mental health becomes an ever-growing reality for thousands of university-goers — YouGov research recently found that one in four university students now suffer from mental health issues — accommodation providers must learn to recognise this and ensure their offerings are set to tackle these issues.
So what exactly can student accommodation providers do to help?
The ‘stack them high and fill them up’ approach to developing student properties can be detrimental to student welfare. Properties should be designed with comfort at the forefront. We tend to build our properties in smaller blocks with less flats, which means that it’s not only much easier to create a real community feel, but also ensures that students don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of people in the block.
We use clever design to ensure our properties don’t only look good, but that students are able to feel like they’re at home in them too. Our latest development in Reading opened its doors last September and was designed in collaboration with Whittam Cox Architects. Whilst each student has their own room and bathroom, the communal areas are designed to encourage a sense of community and connection. A large communal area allows students to interact and establish friendships, whilst smaller break off rooms, including a media room for film viewings and private dining rooms, ensures that smaller socialising areas are available so residents can seek solace if required.
How dedicated welfare officers can help
Whilst structural design is incredibly important and can significantly improve wellbeing, student accommodation providers must also consider incorporating welfare-specific offerings into their buildings. As part of our ongoing commitment to student welfare, each of our developments has its own student support manager, who is dedicated to providing a care network for residents. Moving away from home for the first time can be a daunting prospect for many. Whether students are feeling lonely and missing home, overwhelmed with their workload or struggling to budget, having someone on hand, always ready to help, is much more valuable than a private chef or sauna.
These issues can be amplified for international students, living thousands of miles away from home and without any on-demand support from family and friends. As a result, international students often require more dedicated wellbeing attention, so providers must recognise this and respond accordingly.
Addressing security concerns
As well as providing a comfortable environment and providing ongoing support to students, developers should also address safety concerns in order to protect student welfare. Naturally, crime levels in city centres are higher than in out-of-town locations, but we know that accommodation must be centrally placed to allow for easy access to amenities.
So, it is crucial to provide appropriate security for a site. A break in can really impact someone who has just moved out of home so having a security team available 24 hours makes the chances of a breach of security drastically lower, meaning residents can feel safe, happy and secure in their homes and gives them peace of mind.
Maintaining regular contact with students
This is potentially one of the most important and crucial elements of our success here at CityBlock. We make a big point of staying in regular contact with all of our students so that we can ensure we’re always meeting their evolving needs. Whether that is face to face, or by email through the regular communications we send out to our students asking for feedback on how we can do better. Ultimately, in an increasingly competitive market place student accommodation providers must not rest on their laurels; meeting the ever-evolving needs of students is absolutely crucial and we must not be complacent.