A new approach to student accommodation shortage


As more and more student flats are taken off the market in Auckland’s university precinct, a $250 million facility will provide a new accommodation model that could be rolled out nationwide

The opening of New Zealand’s largest student accommodation facility is set to boost the infrastructure of the country’s tertiary education sector.

Developers say the $250 million University of Auckland facility is designed to create a new model in student accommodation, which can be deployed throughout the country to address a shortage of self-contained apartments in tertiary institutions.

Carlaw Park Student Village has been built on former sporting stadium grounds and was first conceived 20 years ago.

The complex has 416 three-to-six-bedroom apartments and can accommodate over 1,600 residents – with the opening of the ten storey 28,000m2 third stage building on Stanley Street, the largest of its kind in the country, adding 907 rooms.

In addition to the third stage building, the Village extends the University’s campus by 52,000m2.

The facility was inspired by US college accommodation and is built around a large central courtyard which can accommodate recreational activities ranging from volleyball to BBQs.

Extensive consultation with students has also seen the incorporation of new design elements including cinema rooms, gaming areas, retail, communal kitchens, music rooms, e-bike storage, study and artistic spaces. Acoustic sound proofing is designed to create an urban oasis, despite being in close proximity to a motorway entrance.

University of Auckland research suggests their accommodation model, which incorporates apartment rental, utilities, internet and gym membership into one fixed cost is around 17% cheaper for students than living in a private flat off campus.

The analysis shows these aggregated annual savings across the 907 students housed in the largest of the three buildings equate to $4.4 million.

Adrienne Cleland, deputy vice-chancellor and registrar of the University of Auckland, says the self-contained apartment model is common in tertiary institutions overseas, particularly USA, UK and Australia, however in NZ we are more likely to see a higher proportion of traditional student halls of residences.

She says there is significant local demand for on-campus accommodation and the university had 8,500 applications last year for around 4,500 beds available in their facilities.

“In New Zealand, students living on campus will typically go into a catered hall-style accommodation in their first year.

“After that they tend to migrate to private flatting as often the local infrastructure is not sufficient to support the higher volume of students needing accommodation during the term.

“The self-contained model means all students are on an equal footing, which mitigates many of the disputes which can manifest in flatting situations where one tenant holds the lease.

“It also means their living space is fully furnished and they have none of the challenges associated with sourcing beds, furniture or whiteware and they can budget on a fixed weekly cost of $300 per week.

“The development of this new accommodation facility is designed to provide students with a world standard education experience, which in turn helps to develop our international reputation and to ensure we remain competitive in the global market,” she says.

Cleland says the addition of 907 rooms brings the university closer to its target of 7,500 beds which will allow them to house around 16% of its current student population and helps improve access to tertiary education for the domestic market as well.

Greg Reidy, director of Reidy & Co the co-developers of Carlaw Park Student Village – along with construction firm Haydn & Rollett, says changing market dynamics in the real estate industry have exacerbated a shortage of student flats near the CBD.

He says the new model used in the village also provides additional accommodation capacity in the city centre for sporting events and conferences during peak summer season – with 50% of residents vacating their apartments during this time and the revenue used to subsidise the cost for students.

“A number of the older houses in Mt Eden, Parnell and Grafton suburbs have been sold to owner occupiers who have renovated them to become their family home. As a result, it has become increasingly hard to get a student flat close to university in recent years.

“This new development is designed to address the undersupply of good quality student flats within walking distance of the University of Auckland. We believe the project has achieved this objective at a standard beyond anything built to date,” he says.

Kim Barrett, director of Ergon Properties which owns the Carlaw Park Student Village buildings, says tertiary institutions can face a number of barriers to expanding their campus infrastructure.

He says they are looking to expand the accommodation model throughout New Zealand and in conversations with other tertiary institutions.

“While we know that high quality accommodation infrastructure is essential to attracting students, often campuses are based in the centre of a city which means the university is competing with other motivated parties for a small number of suitable commercial sites.

“We have developed a model which helps these institutions secure a long-term lease on the building which becomes part of their property pool – without the upfront capital investment usually needed,” he says.

Cleland says in addition to long-term leases, including on the Carlaw Park accommodation buildings, the university has invested around $300 million on capital infrastructure over the past decade.

She says residents in the village will also have free access to a new six storey 21,600m2 university recreation and wellness centre which will be completed in 2024.

The development of the new accommodation infrastructure is seen as an important strategic step in helping to attract international students and retain domestic students within NZ – as the global market for tertiary education is re-established.