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AUSTIN, TX-American Campus Communities Inc. in its third-quarter report noted increases in a variety of areas. The student housing owner and developer’s overall revenue totaled $78.4 million, up 8.7% from Q3 2008, while the portfolio occupancy stood at 95.9%, compared to the 2008 third-quarter total of 92%.

Company CEO Bill Bayless said part of the reason for the positive figures was due to turnaround of assets bought from GMH Communities Trust’s portfolio in June 2008. “We’re very pleased with the operations and financial results of the quarter, particularly given the conditions of the broader real estate market,” Bayless added.

He said that the company’s American Campus Equity (ACE) program, a development and operations partnership between universities and American Campus Communities, continues strong, noting that the University of New Mexico approved a master agreement detailing terms under which American Campus Communities will develop various phases of student housing. If everything continues on pace, it’s likely construction could start on the first phase of the project, a $42-million development targeting upper classmen, sometime in 2010.

Bayless and other American Campus Communities executives suggest that the current market bodes well for student housing developers for two reasons. “In our sector, as a whole, there is still a great deal of underperformance that is driven by operational inefficiencies or operational inexperience,” Bayless explained. As a result, when lenders or banks take over assets that might be underperforming, “they may realize that it’s due to operations versus the market,” Bayless commented. American Campus Communities will continue to examine such opportunities for acquisitions.

The second reason is that universities and colleges require new student housing, but are facing budget crises. As a result, Bayless said, it becomes almost impossible for these institutions to get new housing approved. As a result, the ACE program is attracting a great deal of interest.

“We’ve seen increases in the number of tours we’re seeing at the larger assets, particularly at [Arizona State University],” Bayless said. ASU’s Vista Del Sol was one of the first ACE projects, and is currently 99% occupied. Bayless indicated this was a positive success story both for the university and the ACE program.

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