Andrew Southern, chairman at Southern Grove and Future Generation

Andrew Southern: The oversupply of PBSA is a 'huge drawback' in many areas now

In an exclusive interview with Development Finance Today, Andrew Southern, chairman at Southern Grove and Future Generation (pictured above), has highlighted the oversupply of PBSA schemes as a “huge drawback”.


Southern Grove is a specialist mixed-use, residential-led developer, while Future Generation focuses on building, managing and operating student housing and networking facilities across the UK and Europe.

According to the May 2019 Global Student Property report by Knight Frank, the PBSA sector in the UK is valued at more than $65bn (approximately £50bn), with applications from international students for the 2019/20 academic year expected to rise by 6% year-on-year.

“Oversupply of PBSA is a huge drawback in many areas now,” said Andrew.

“In the past five years, so many PBSA schemes have gone ahead that the fundamentals across swathes of the country have changed dramatically.

“This obviously makes suitable sites harder to find, but there’s still plenty of scope for more student accommodation, if you know where to look.”

“We have a set of criteria we use when holding a magnifying glass up to tier-one cities.

“The trick is not to rush in when the fundamentals don’t add up.

“The benefit of being a mixed-use developer with broad interests is that we can shift our focus if the numbers don’t work and pick, not just the areas that are viable, but the type of accommodation that will work in each location.”

Andrew added that he was keen to acquire more sites as long as they were based in areas that hadn’t reached “saturation point”.

“We go for areas where we see a lot of pent-up demand for higher-quality accommodation, which is where our sweet spot lies and we avoid getting into a ‘race to the bottom’ with other providers by offering something premium.

“A better-quality product at the right price ensures we face less competition when our units actually hit the open market and, ultimately, makes our investment more reliable and less vulnerable to economic shocks.

“Design wins the day, every day, as long as pricing is realistic and it also helps to focus on places where there are multiple educational institutions.”


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