Blackstone Inc. is betting big on U.S. property with a deal to buy student-housing operator American Campus Communities Inc. for $12.8 billion.
The all-cash transaction is the largest student-housing deal by the Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust. Known as BREIT for short, the $97 billion fund last year invested in the industry through a $784 million joint venture with Landmark Properties.
New York-based Blackstone has been scooping up U.S. housing assets of all kinds as the pandemic reshapes where Americans work and live, which along with low borrowing costs and supply constraints has driven a boom in property values across the country and led to the sharpest monthly rent increases in decades.
BREIT in particular has become a force to be reckoned with in the real estate industry since launching in 2017. Earlier this year, it struck a deal to buy apartment owner Preferred Apartment Communities Inc. in a $5.8 billion deal. It also purchased Home Partners of America Inc., which rents single-family homes, in a $6 billion transaction last year.
More than half of BREIT’s assets are in residential property, according to its latest factsheet, with almost 20% of its real estate is in Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Blackstone’s deeper expansion into the U.S. housing market comes at a time when investors are watching the industry closely for signs of cooling, with 30-year mortgage rates reaching 5% for the first time since 2011. Potential homebuyers signaled dismay over elevated rates, on top of record-high prices, in a survey released this week by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
American Campus says it’s the nation’s largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities. It owned 166 student-housing properties with about 111,900 beds as of Dec. 31, including around Arizona State University, Florida State University, and the University of California in Berkeley. Almost a quarter of its buildings are on-campus.
Private equity firms are betting that private student housing complexes will provide better returns compared with apartments and other residential assets. Dormitory rates can reset every year, which serves as a hedge against inflation.
The market for student housing will expand to 9.2 million beds by 2031 from 8.5 million in 2020, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.