We have talked to student housing operators in four Nordic countries asking them to describe the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their student housing market. An expected drop in international students and an increase in national students is a common theme throughout the Nordics.
The uncertainty of the pandemic affects the Danish student housing market in two opposite directions. While the number of international students this autumn is expected to drop substantially, the number of national students might instead increase as a result of the current economic recession. Altogether, an increase of new students and a higher demand for student housing is expected.
But despite this, the Danish student housing market will in large extent be able to supply the needed housing. The reason is a rapid building activity in the last couple of years. In the Copenhagen area the majority of new housing is privately owned, while the building of subsidized student housing has been limited. Student housing in the Copenhagen area are therefore available, but in many cases expensive.
Student housing providers are left uncertain over the number of international students in the fall. The national organization for universities of applied sciences has recommended its members to abstain from international student exchange. They are also recommended to organize distance teaching for international degree students in case they cannot move to Finland. Universities are undergoing similar considerations and ultimately it is up to each institution to decide how to handle international student mobility during the pandemic.
Student housing providers face a risk of vacancies if international degree and exchange students stay at home. According to the Eurostudent survey, 71 percent of international students in Finland live in student housing, which is the highest share in Europe. Reduction in international student mobility could lead to growing vacancy rates in student housing. This is made worse by the fact that international students tend to favour housing options such as shared apartments that are facing decreasing demand among the domestic student population.
Iceland took severe measures in fighting the corona virus and from a health perspective the outcome has been positive, but it has also seriously affected the economy. Almost 70 000 people are unemployed, and the tourism is currently non-existing – two outcomes that effect the student housing market in different ways.
The unemployment rate is expected to increase registration to the universities and Icelandic housing companies are preparing for a high demand this autumn. But the conditions to accommodate students are better than before. All three major student housing companies in Reykjavik are building new housing and the 700 – 800 units already in production are forthgoing as planned. The decrease in tourists also leaves hotels, guesthouses and Airbnb units open for students. But it remains to see how long these will be available to students before the tourism industry gets back on its feet.
The conditions for the Swedish student housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic are divided. Universities and housing companies with only or mostly international students as tenants experience a much more uncertain future than operators with mostly national students. Reports from the different operators show a normal level of international applicants, but if and when they arrive remains to be seen.
The Swedish government has taken several actions which affect the student housing market. The number of places at the universities are suggested to increase with 20 000 in 2020 and 2021. This will most certainly affect already pressured local student housing markets. To relief the demand from national students and reduce the impact of fewer international students, the government has suggested a temporary regulation allowing all institutions of higher education to rent student housing to national students as well as international ones.