All CEE countries are promising, but Poland offers investors the best opportunities in the student housing sector, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s CEE Student Housing and Co-Living Investment Briefing, which was held last week at the offices of CMS in the City of London.
Three factors work in Poland’s favour: first, it has many smaller university towns as well as established big cities with large student populations like Warsaw and Krakow, giving investors scale and the opportunity to create a portfolio. Secondly, it has light-touch regulation that allows flexibility. Thirdly, it is the only country in the region so far that actively supports the sector because it has realised its potential.
‘Poland is a great favourite, because it has multiple cities and the advantage of size,’ said Luke Dawson, Managing Director & Head of Capital Markets CEE, Colliers International.
‘The best opportunities are to be found in Poland, and there’s a variety of them’, said Rainer Nonnengässer, CEO, International Campus. ‘For us it is a country-wide approach, that spans different cities, while in the Czech Republic, for example, it’s a city approach, limited to Prague’.
Demand for student housing is high because Poland attracts the most international students in CEE – over 23,000 in Warsaw alone – from Germany, other neighbouring countries and further afield.
‘A lot of Asian students are coming to Poland and looking for high quality accommodation,’ said Wojciech Koczara, Partner, Head of CEE Real Estate, CMS. ‘The Polish Government looks very favourably at the sector and has even launched a PPP project, which is extremely rare in the region’.
Dawson agreed that ‘many CEE Governments have not fully realised the benefits of student housing, they see it as competition. Poland is the exception’.
The Government, which is battling with labour shortages, sees foreign students as a double advantage: they bring in money in the immediate, through fees and living expenses, while longer term they could stay and work in Poland and contribute to the economy.
Of all CEE countries ‘only Poland is deliberately targeting foreign students, with a budget specifically allocated to promotional activity abroad’, said Samuel Vetrak, CEO, Bonard.
According to a new investor survey on student housing done last month by Colliers International and CMS, half of respondents said that Poland is the most interesting opportunity in the region.
The country is also seen as stable and dependable, despite the controversy over some Government policies and its strained relations with the European Union. ‘As long as you do proper due diligence you will be fine,’ said Koczara. ‘Political risk is not an issue in Poland’.
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