Thu | Aug 17, 2017

UWI eyes 60% occupancy under room rental partnership

Published:Wednesday | January 25, 2017 | 1:00 AMTameka Gordon
A student walks by a set of student flats developed at UWI Mona by 138 Student Living Jamaaica. UWI and 138 Student Living are partnering on a rental programme for student lodgings left idle during the summer.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is hoping to get at least 60 per cent of its 5,000 room stock rented during the summer months under a new partnership that is meant to gin up demand for the space in idle holiday periods.

The new target is around six times the occupancy levels the UWI Mona campus currently experiences during summer breaks.

The Summer Rental Accommodation Programme expands UWI Mona's business relationship with its student-housing concessionaire, 138 Student Living Jamaica.

On Monday, the real estate company said at its annual general meeting that it plans to pitch the space to event planners, churches, sporting associations, among other segments.

Pro-vice chancellor and principal of UWI Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald, told Gleaner Business that 138 Student Living was tapped as partner for its experience in real estate.

"As a private company, 138 SL has more agility, plus there are some costs that they will pick up to do the marketing campaign," he said.

Both the lodgings developed and operated by 138 Student Living, as well as the traditional halls built by UWI will fall under the rental programme.

"The traditional halls are empty during the summer because the students go home," McDonald said.

Typically, students who wish to stay on make arrangements through the Office of Student Services and are charged "a reduced rate" to lodge during the off-peak seasons.

Even with medical science students, whose programmes run year round, staying on, this represents less than 10 per cent occupancy of the campus during summer, McDonald said.

McDonald said the rental programme is targeting at least 60 per cent take-up of the near 5,000 rooms spread across the campus.

138 Student Living has proposed a rental fee of US$20-US$65 per night, but this is subject to approval by the Campus Financial and General Purposes Committee, McDonald said.

The rate for UWI's students will be "significantly lower," he added, but said the exact charge is still to be decided.

Summer occupants will have the "use of UWI's campus and all it includes," according to 138 Student Living chairman John Lee.

"We think this will place Kingston on the map offering affordable accommodation, as it will now have housing infrastructure to attract large-scale events like no other city on the Caribbean," he said.

Over the past two years of its student housing partnership with UWI Mona, 138 Student Living has delivered 1008 rooms, with roughly 600 more to be developed under its concession agreement. subsidiary, 138 SL Restoration, is also renovating one of the existing traditional student residences, Irvine Hall.

Irvine Hall has been demolished with students now housed at another recently completed 480-room facility built by 138 Student Living. Delivery of the new structure is on target for the next academic year, McDonald said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com