The Best Cities to Invest in Student Housing in USA - 2018 Edition

Monday, December 10, 2018

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For the last 15 years, has been offering insight into the student housing industry, as well as providing off-campus rental options to students at colleges and universities throughout North America.


We have previously published blogs breaking down the top cities in need of student housing in Canada. This year we will also be providing a breakdown of top five cities in need of student housing in the United States.


The methodology for determining these cities has been based on rental vacancy rates, enrolment growth at major schools, as well as some zoning factors.



Santa Cruz, CA:


California is home to many large universities; the University of California system is one of the largest. UC Santa Cruz offers various indicators that it's a great place to invest in student housing, especially for private owners:


  • The Santa Cruz rental vacancy rate has dropped from 4.5% to 3.2% in just one year
  • Enrolment growth at the UC Santa Cruz has gone up 3.6% from the 2016-2017 school year to 2017-2018
  • Average rental rate in Santa Cruz is $2,472/month


The University has urged over 6,000 faculty and staff members to consider renting rooms to students, due to the current housing crisis.



Tacoma, WA:


the University of Washington-Tacoma faces a similar crisis as UC-Santa Cruz, in regards to their need for more student housing. UW-Tacoma has transformed from a commuter school to a full-service university.


  • Tacoma has a rental vacancy rate of 3.4%
  • Enrolment growth at UW-Tacoma has gone up 3.5% from the 2016-2017 school year to 2017-2018
  • Average rental rate in Tacoma is $1,556/month


UW-Tacoma Director of Campus Planning and Retail Services, Patrick D. Clark stated, “…the sweet spot is for the university to have housing for about 10% to 12 % of the student population. The private sector would fill the rest.”

There is a great demand for more student accommodations and university officials would like to see the private sector involved. This would allow for landlords and property developers to get into the market and develop affordable housing plans for students.



Fort Collins, CO:


Colorado is home to over 130 colleges and universities, including Colorado State University located in Fort Collins.


  • Fort Collins has a rental vacancy rate of just 3%
  • Enrolment growth at CSU has gone up 3.8% from the 2016-2017 school year to 2017-2018
  • Average rental rate in Fort Collins is $1,165/month


Colorado State University has welcomed about 5,300 new students and did not have the capacity to house them all. Almost 100 students had to be housed in overflow spaces, such as hall lounges and basements. The rise in students attending CSU has also increased the demand for other housing options in the city.



Cambridge, MA:


Cambridge is home to one of the most well known academic institutions in the country, Harvard University. This Ivy-League school is facing the same issues as other universities around the country - a lack of student housing.


  • Cambridge has a rental vacancy rate of 4.8%
  • Enrolment growth at Harvard University has gone up 4.1% from the 2016-2017 school year to 2017-2018
  • Average rental rate in Cambridge is $2,260/month


Cambridge is currently faced with a housing crisis. The demand for affordable housing is high and the supply is low. This impacts Harvard students, as well as Harvard faculty and staff. The Harvard Crimson reported that almost 25,000 Harvard affiliates, from graduate and undergraduate students to faculty and staff, are spread out across the city.


With the demand for affordable housing in Cambridge being so high, the door is wide open for landlords and property developers to fill the void.



Providence, RI:


In Providence, we see a different type of housing issue. A Providence ordinance has been passed that prohibits landlords from renting out single-family homes to more than three college students at a time. Home to many schools, including Ivy-League Brown University, Providence will likely see a decrease in the rentals available, because students will have to limit their number of roommates per unit to three.


  • Providence has a rental vacancy rate of 4.2%
  • Brown University had an enrolment growth of 3.2% from the 2016-2017 school year to the 2017-2018 school year
  • Average rental rate in Providence is $1,231/month


Brown University has over 9,000 students and is just one of five college and university campuses in Providence. More private landlords and property managers will be needed to supply the increased number of rental units required to comply with this new zoning ordinance.


*The above data reflects enrolment, vacancy and average rental rates from 2016 to 2018. The average rental rates are based on two bedroom apartments.



SEE ALSO:  The Best Cities to Invest in Student Housing in Canada – 2018 Edition

The Team