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Student Housing With No Students?

Veteran international investor John Corey comments

A BBC headline on 19 May stated, "Cambridge University: All lectures to be online-only until summer of 2021." The article clarifies that, "This decision has been taken now to facilitate planning, but as ever, will be reviewed should there be changes to official advice on coronavirus."

An early decision, so people can plan is a great idea. They are keeping the official guidance flexible and that sounds right. Most businesses want to know what will be required - almost the same sort of request from companies concerning Brexit or any other significant policy changes.

What does this imply for student landlords? Will there be anyone to rent your Cambridge property in September 2020? If the number of students renting is down significantly, what alternative niches will come into focus? Will other housing sectors in Cambridge be impacted? What about the local shops, bars and other businesses that depend on the student trade? And also the suppliers to these businesses such as the commercial landlords? The knock-on impact could be huge.

What will happen in other cities? The University of Manchester has announced the next term (autumn) will be online but with no clarity for the balance of the 2020-21 academic year.

Shifting focus to Edinburgh, Newcastle, Brighton, Cardiff or Bristol, what happens if the students live with their parents in their home towns, rather than enjoying campus life?

What if and so what
I spoke recently with an ex-officer of the British Army. He explained how operational planning follows a process of asking, 'What if?' followed by 'So what?' He calls it 'war-gaming'. Scenario planning is an alternative label for the process.

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