Blackstone Inc. is broadening its bet on U.S. student housing, forming a $784 million joint venture with Landmark Properties.
The new partnership will recapitalize a portfolio of buildings with 5,416 beds, according to a statement.
“We’ve seen a very quick uptick in student housing occupancy to pre-Covid levels, which is one of the reasons we’re so bullish on the space,” Jacob Werner, Blackstone senior managing director in the real estate group, said in an interview.
Investors are betting on college housing as students flock back to campus after more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions. They’re seeing a relative bargain in the typically private, off-campus complexes compared with the cost of apartments and other residential assets, which have soared in value since the pandemic.
Landmark, based in Athens, Georgia, operates more than 75 student-housing properties with nearly 51,000 beds. The firm has $7.7 billion in assets under management.
Other players are pouring in: Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is forming a joint venture with Scion Group LLC to acquire at least $1 billion in student-housing properties, the company’s first U.S. bet on the sector. Private equity firm TPG started investing in student housing in November in a partnership with Cardinal Group Investments.
“I think you’re seeing a lot of interest because people realized there’s probably been a mispricing in the space,” Landmark Chief Executive Officer Wes Rogers said. “There’s an arbitrage opportunity there.”
The student housing market is projected to grow to 9.2 million beds by 2031 from 8.5 million last year, according to a July report by the National Multifamily Housing Council. New construction slowed during the pandemic and enrollment is expected to rebound after many students took time off, creating a supply shortage.
Students and faculty coming back to campus also bodes well for demand, according to Ben Mohns, head of asset management, North America at investment manager Harrison Street, which owns about 92,000 beds.
Blackstone’s deal with Landmark follows a $1.2 billion acquisition of a 10,500-bed portfolio of U.S. student housing with Greystar Real Estate Partners in 2018 and a $6 billion deal in 2020 to buy a 28,000-bed portfolio in the U.K. from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
The private equity giant is making the investment through Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, a non-traded REIT, the people said. Since inception in 2017, BREIT has averaged annual total returns of 11.64%.
Student housing benefits from undergraduate enrollment growth at top schools, keeping performance steady even in up-and down-economic periods, said Justin Pattner, head of real estate equity in the Americas for KKR & Co.
The firm has acquired about 10,000 student housing beds since 2016 through portfolio company University Partners.
“It certainly seems from observing and participating in the market that there are more institutions coming into the space,” Pattner said.