WORDS: DEBBIE LOOTS • IMAGES: SUPPLIED
With universities operational again, student accommodation and short-term apartment lets are in the spotlight. How will Covid-19 and possible future pandemics affect new building design going forward?
SA’s university students are back on campus under strict Covid-19 protocols, which is part of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s plan to save the 2020 academic year.
Students living in university accommodation have to adhere to strict safety measures and practise social distancing to ensure their on-campus safety from the Covid-19 virus. This may be a good short-term solution but reconsidering the design of student accommodation going forward is crucial right now.
“Well-designed accommodation could be key to managing the spread of Covid-19 among South Africa’s student population,” says Sean Kenealy, an architect, urban designer and director of the student accommodation group Stag Africa.
The company has pioneered a green, innovative alternative to student accommodation and is currently developing a 2,047-bed student village at the University of Fort Hare – this is the largest student accommodation development by a public university in South Africa.
Student housing in South Africa usually accommodates as many people as possible in a dense hostel-like configuration. “A single Covid-19 infection under such conditions could yield an uncontrolled outbreak within weeks, if not days,” says Kenealy. “We need to implement ways of limiting social interaction, without losing the vitally important aspect of community.”
Stag Africa has patented a pod design that recreates a home environment, housing eight students per pod. It consists of double or single bedrooms and a common kitchen and living area. It limits interactions to just eight people, versus older, institutional student housing designs that include long passages with cubicles on each side, often with hundreds of students per floor.
Being part of a community is important in terms of students’ success. “Over 60% of learning at the tertiary level occurs outside a lecture hall within the communities students create on campus – this is known as the hidden context of learning. Communal spaces are where mentorship and tutorship happen. Alternative education is as important as formal education,” says Kenealy.
A shortage of student housing is not a new problem in South Africa and Kenealy says it’s partly due to a lack of innovation. He thinks the current pandemic, and possible future pandemics, could potentially send student housing design in a new direction. “We have an opportunity now to pause and redefine the meaning of quality on-campus accommodation; this should take into account community, sustainability and affordability,” he says.
Location, location, location
Stellenbosch is home to the second oldest university in South Africa, a campus offering world-class academic and sport facilities. However, apart from its lively student community, the town is also a popular tourist and business travel destination with many historic wine farms and quaint villages on its outskirts.
Student accommodation and short-term let options in Stellenbosch are sought after and usually in short supply. With strict municipal policies in place, there are often long lead times on development approvals.
Flyt Property Investment’s Quivertree apartment block has just been launched and offers fully-furnished and serviced studio and two-bedroom units – this existing development has shown strong rental growth over the past two years of operation and has a good track record and presence in the market.
Savvy parents and investors will be pleased to know they can enjoy the benefits of an investment without the hassle of taking care of everything. The block is part of a formal rental pool, which is fully managed by an on-site team and offers a host of benefits, including furnished apartments at no additional cost, quality tenants who “tick all the boxes”, a lower financial risk, higher returns due to a dedicated on-site management solution and no administration hassle.
Part of SARS’ Section 12J tax break incentive, investment in Quivertree offers a considerable added bonus – a 100% tax deduction plus a rental yield guarantee for the first two years of 6.5% after all costs (including rates and levies) have been deducted.
The Worx is a new mixed-use development in Dennesig, an area earmarked as the next de facto student hub in Stellenbosch, says Vanessa Johnson, sectional title agent, Pam Golding Properties.
It offers 50 contemporary apartments with top finishes and views priced from R1,45m. Municipal urban design guidelines here include pedestrian access and use of non-motorised transport, as well as a shuttle service to town.
Also, the university’s green route – which allows students to walk to campus with additional lighting and access to campus security – will be extended to this area.
These mixed-use developments will continue to be an attractive investment opportunity, even in times of economic uncertainty, says Louise Varga, Pam Golding Properties manager of developments for the Boland and Overberg.
With Generation Z now dominating student life with their unique needs, expectations, and aspirations, here and globally, it’s no surprise that this group is literally shaping the built environment.
Observatory 6 on Nansen, a new housing development for students and young professionals by Proper Living, is close to the University of Cape Town, and will offer accommodation packages and state-of-the-art security. The 98-unit project is currently under development and set to launch in December.
Its young founders are British-born South African YouTuber and entrepreneur Caspar Lee (25), and Cape Town-based entrepreneur Benji Schaffer (23). Their shared vision for Proper Living is for it to become a contemporary model for 21st century living for the sophisticated youth market in the R6,000 to R11,000 monthly rental bracket.
Observatory 6 on Nansen’s offerings vary from studio to two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments with shared communal spaces. Apartments are suitable for young professionals and students.
Safety is a key selling point with 24/7 guarding and rapid response, state-of-the-art surveillance, and biometric fingerprint scanning. On top of that, the Swift holistic digital app platform has been designed to further facilitate safety, and connects residents, management, and service providers.
Explaining Section 12J
We spoke to Darryn van der Poel, investment consultant, Flyt Property Investment, about Section 12J of the Income Tax Act.
What is Section 12J? It’s a SARS initiative introduced by the government to incentivise and stimulate investment in businesses that create jobs and grow the economy.
How does it benefit the investor? By investing in a registered Section 12J entity, investors are able to reduce their taxable income by the full value (100%) of their investment, reducing their tax liability to SARS. This means that SARS will finance up to 45% of the investment (depending on the investor’s marginal tax rate). Anyone is eligible: individuals, trusts and companies.
How does it work? Investments made via a Section 12J Fund are put into qualifying companies that are compliant with the rules of Section 12J. Hospitality properties and student accommodation “tick the boxes” provided they meet certain qualifying criteria. As Quivertree is a fully-managed solution of short-term, serviced and furnished accommodation and has an on-site meal offering, it qualifies as a 12J compliant investment.
Minimum investment into Quivertree via Flyt’s 12J Fund is R1m and needs to be held for a minimum of five years. Investors can invest their own cash or opt for one of Flyt’s innovative financing products. This means you are able to invest your tax into into quality hospitality property without putting down lany of your own money.