Editor: Build-to-rent (BTR) developer and operator Moda Living’s recent venture into the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) market comes as no surprise. 

Or rather, it is surprising that we have not seen higher numbers of lateral moves between the two sectors, given the clear parallels.

However, as BTR operators look to capitalise on the growth potential and high demand for housing stock in the PBSA market, it is essential they do not make the mistake of taking the two sectors for identical twins.

It is clear that there is much in common between BTR and PBSA: a focus on tenant experience, amenities, convenience and intuitive technology. Above all, there is a shared focus on the creation of communities.

However, it is this very similarity that may trip up BTR operators looking to diversify into PBSA. The importance of community takes on new dimensions for students. Unlike adult renters, who are more likely to have existing support networks, employment and independence, students are looking to create a new social community. This can be facilitated in a number of ways, perhaps most obviously through shared spaces, social events and communal study rooms.

Technology also has an important role: resident engagement portals, for instance, provide a platform for students to connect with others and explore the local area.

Similarly, discount schemes will always be attractive on a student budget, so incorporating benefits like these can not only add to the sense of community but also provide tangible benefits for local residents.

The BTR boom has shown us the potential of service-rich housing, but it is essential that PBSA operators look to go beyond that and understand the specific needs of students – it is no longer simply about the provision of a bed and a desk.

Matthew Smith, sales manager, Grosvenor Systems

BTR master 10 Oct

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