SA Affordable Housing January / February 2017 // Issue: 62 - Page 24

FEATURES Student housing is about more than just providing beds – it’s about the experience. Image: Respublica BUILDING AFFORDABLY Building affordably is very difficult, McMurray admits. “There is a certain cost to building. Students want more than just a bed, they want the full experience. We have to charge a minimum to cover it. We can do it at the government grant rate but it’s difficult.” The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) should be realistic about what market-related rental actually is, says McMurray. They haven’t increased rentals for three years. But cost has escalated, especially utilities. It’s still about 30% below market. If they built their own facilities, they would do so at a higher cost than the private sector. “They need to benchmark realistic rates so students can find a place to live that’s not sub-standard,” says McMurray A way to get around this, is to blend the offerings, so there are more expensive options subsidising the more basic options like shared rooms and so on. 22 JANUARY - FEBRUARY 2017 AFFORDABLE SA HOUSING “There is only so much you can do in terms of building materials to bring costs down,” says McMurray. “Your rand per square meter to build is very difficult. A lot of these new technologies, which are far more energy efficient, come at a cost. How do you match that with bringing in an affordable rate?” There is a correlation between what students expect and want versus what they need. The increasing expectations result in higher rates. “There is a mismatch between what is affordable and what can be provided,” says McMurray. When STAG African evolved to specialise in student accommodation, it conducted extensive research on what universities could afford to pay for each new student bed. From that number, they worked backwards, seeking innovative building technologies and designs that could deliver on it.