With the new academic year approaching, thousands of students are stepping up their search for accommodation. Meanwhile, Cushman & Wakefield has identified that, given the current bed provision in Poland, just 10 percent of all students can be accommodated in university-owned and private halls of residence. Those considering looking for privately rented accommodation will, however, face many challenges. According to Otodom, the availability of rental residential units in many key university towns is shrinking while rents continue to rise, with rental growth at the end of July 2023 averaging 1.5 percent month-on-month (m/m) and 8.5 percent year-on-year (y/y).
According to data from Statistics Poland (GUS), Poland has 359 higher education institutions which were attended in the previous academic year by more than 1.2 million students, reveals Cushman & Wakefield. That total included over 105,000 foreign students, mainly from Ukraine (nearly 50,000) and Belarus (over 12,000).
The number of international students choosing Poland to study has been rising for many years. Poland is a major academic centre in Central and Eastern Europe, with one of the largest student populations in Europe. In the 2021/2022 academic year alone, the number of international students in Poland increased by nearly 18 percent. In addition, the overall student population is rising again after a pandemic dip.
“Students are also affected by housing shortages and are definitely much more distressed than their friends who studied at Polish universities a few years earlier. It has become a lot more difficult to find a flat on the private rental market and average rents are rising,” comments Karolina Furmańska, Associate Director, Living Sector, Cushman & Wakefield.
According to data from Otodom, asking rents for flats in Warsaw and Krakow – the two largest university cities – rose in July by almost 12 percent y/y.
Demand outstrips student housing provision
According to data from Cushman & Wakefield, in the past academic year, there were just over 115,000 beds in university-owned halls of residence, with just over 11,500 beds in private halls and another 6,000 in the pipeline. Given the current demand-supply imbalance, there is substantial room for investing in this sector.
“Only 9 percent of students can be accommodated in university-owned halls of residence. In addition, few such schemes have been fully refurbished and upgraded over the last dozen years. No wonder most students are looking for better accommodation than that of university-owned halls. Although modern private facilities have doubled their offer in the last 10 years, they can accommodate just 1% of all students in Poland,” says Karolina Furmańska, Associate Director, Living Sector, Cushman & Wakefield.
For example, Warsaw has the third largest student population in Europe but just over 1,000 beds in private student houses. With 230,000 people studying in the city in the past year, its provision rate was under 1 percent. No wonder it is difficult to secure a bed there.
The situation in Krakow is slightly better. There are more than 17,000 beds in university-owned halls of residence and another 3,000 in private ones. In addition, there are new PBSA (Purpose-Built Student Accommodation) projects in the pipeline. This means that 15 percent of all students in the city can be accommodated.
It is similar in Wrocław and Tricity. In the former – the capital of Lower Silesia – with a student population of 107,000, there are over 9,000 beds in university-owned and private halls of residence. The student housing stock in Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia, which have a total of more than 80,000 students, is just 8,000 beds.
“This demonstrates that there is huge untapped potential in the Polish PBSA sector. With the living and fit-out standards that young people have gotten used to, private student houses are their first choice option. They feature modern amenities, including internet access, private rooms, space for learning, fitness rooms or launderettes for young people who value convenience and comfort,” says Karolina Furmańska.
This attracts investors to Poland. According to Cushman & Wakefield, more than 12 large international companies have invested in the Polish PBSA sector so far – these include Kajima, Milestone, Zeitgeist AM, Xior Student Housing, and Corestate&Bain. The scale of such investments is, however, still insufficient.
Will rental flats come to the rescue?
Due to the very limited number of beds in university-owned and private halls of residence (including the requirement to meet qualifying conditions to live in a university-owned hall of residence), students are naturally shifting their focus to rental flats and rooms. According to data from Otodom, rental demand used to peak in late summer and in the months immediately preceding the start of an academic year, but in recent years it has been observed to gather pace earlier.
“The student rental market, just like the general rental market, has gone through a period of great turmoil in recent years. Two years ago, the pandemic increased the supply of flats vacated by students who returned to their family homes to study remotely. The past year saw an undersupply of rental flats and an upsurge in rents caused by the war in Ukraine and an influx of refugees. It is little wonder that those seeking flats meeting their expectations, especially financial ones, will now start looking around much earlier,” says Ewa Tęczak, Residential Market Expert, Otodom.
Experts of Otodom reported an increase in activity among people looking for rental flats in June. In July 2023, the number of searches for rental flats on their website increased by 18% over the month. Data from Otodom Analytics shows that the number of offers returned to pre-war levels some time ago, but rental prices hold firm.
“Students are not the only group active on the rental market. Rental growth averaged approximately 35% in the last two years and was largely driven by rising service charges. In addition, higher costs due to interest rate hikes were also indirectly passed onto tenants as a great many rental flats had been bought with a mortgage by private investors. As rental prices have stabilized and availability is much greater, some tenants have started looking for flats with better conditions or are simply trying to adjust rental costs to shrinking household budgets,” says Ewa Tęczak, Otodom.
Are hall fees likely to be competitive?
Unfortunately for students, the increasingly hot rental market has seen rents edge up. According to Otodom, in July 2023, rents in all the provincial capital cities grew on average by 1.5 percent over the month and 8.5 percent year-on-year. The strongest growth was in Tricity (+3.5 percent m/m) and in Lublin and Olsztyn (+2.5 percent m/m).
The highest rents are in Warsaw, where the average asking rent is more than PLN 5,000. Average rental rates of over PLN 3,000 per month are reported in Tricity, Krakow and Wrocław. In Katowice, Lublin, Rzeszów and Poznań – cities with the largest proportion of students to their total populations – renting a flat costs around PLN 2,400 a month.
By comparison, according to data from Cushman & Wakefield, the average fee for a bed is approximately PLN 700 per month in a university-owned hall of residence and approximately PLN 2,000 per month in a private one.
The lowest accommodation fees can be found in the hall of residence of the National Film School in Łódź: PLN 280 per month for a bed in a triple room and PLN 320 per month for one in a double room. Bratniak – the hall of residence of the Warsaw University of Technology – is in second place, with PLN 320 per month for a bed in a quintuple room. The highest fees are for single rooms, ranging between PLN 440 per month for a room with no bathroom in the hall of residence of the Gdańsk University of Technology and PLN 1,650 at the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences.
In Warsaw, the average accommodation fee in a university-owned hall of residence is around PLN 600, while the highest cost is for a single room at the Warsaw School of Economics – PLN 1,100 per month. By comparison, rents for studios in that location start from PLN 2,000 plus service and utility charges.