JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—Like many major cities throughout the world, Johannesburg is experience a significant increase in university student enrollment. And as in many major metro areas, the market is ripe with student housing opportunities. According to South Africa’s Department of Higher Education, the student housing available in the country accommodates fewer than 20% of the country’s student population of 530,000.
One company taking full advantage of this situation is International Housing Solutions, a global private equity investment firm that focuses on affordable housing in South Africa. IHS managing partner Soula Proxenos relates that more than half the students attending the country’s 23 public universities have access to student housing.
The locally based company is revamping hundreds of apartment units situated near the University of Johannesburg and Wits University, located in close proximity to major public transportation routes and retail centers. IHS has gradually been putting together a portfolio of what it terms “new-generation student housing solutions” throughout South Africa’s major urban centers.
The latest in the firm’s “new vision” communities is Studentdigz, a portfolio of properties that recently debuted in the market. Units are currently up for lease, with occupancy slated for the beginning of the 2013 to 2014 school year.
The addition of some 1,900 units, spread throughout several developments in the city’s Braamfonteinarea, helps to ease the shortage of quality student housing in the region. The communities are unlike the typical student housing available in the market, according to Rob Wesselo, managing partner at IHS.
“Student Digz differs from other student developments in that it is not based on the dormitory-style model,” he explains. “All apartments are self-contained, which means that students have their own bathrooms, kitchens and living spaces, and most importantly, privacy and quiet to ensure successful studies.” Accredited by both the Universities of Johannesburg and Wits, Studentdigz also has an elected Student Representative Council, which looks after the interests of the student tenants.
The Studentdigz portfolio was previously owned by a joint venture of IHS and Aengus Property Holdings IHS, until the latter sold its interest in the properties to its partner. “Since we’ve taken over complete control of the management of the development, we have launched a massive project to ensure all maintenance was completed and apartments refurbished where necessary,” says Wesselo. “Lots of time, money and human resources have been poured into ensuring students have great living and studying space for the 2012 intake. The result is modern, clean and inviting apartments where students won’t only live, but be able to enjoy a satisfying lifestyle.”
The portfolio includes the 63-unit, 140-bed Argyle Centre; the 54-unit, 108-bed Braamfontein Lofts; the YMCA, with 380 beds in 179 units; the 72-unit, 212-bed Skyways; the 71-unit, 191-bed Parktown Views; and Dudley Heights, with 380 beds in 223 units.
According to Wesselo, the Studentdigz collection of properties now features new secure entrances with biometric access at all buildings and an aesthetically sleek, functioning canteen and convenience store at the Precinct. The communities also have their own sponsored soccer team, the Amadigzdigz.