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How are student accommodation providers adapting to Covid-19?

Most universities will be reopening in some shape or form from late September/early October, and an increasing number of students attending these establishments will reside in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) – a fast-growing sector popular among institutional investors for the reliable returns on offer.

But how are these providers reacting to the challenges of Covid-19 and its requirement for social distancing and enhanced hygiene protocols?

With thousands of students finding out their A-level results last week, and which university they’ll be attending, one student accommodation company has drafted in some famous names to help its residents stay Covid-safe when they move in.

Student Roost, which runs 20,000 student beds across the UK, has come up with a quirky way of maintaining social distancing in its communal spaces ahead of the new academic year.

Instagram-friendly cardboard cut-outs will be used to help residents follow the national recommendations to stay 2m apart from non-flatmates, with the cardboard celebs even specially selected to suit the variety of social, study and fitness spaces within Student Roost’s 50-plus properties across the UK.

“To close an unused treadmill in a fitness room, who doesn’t want The Rock, Serena Williams or David Beckham as a gym buddy? To mark out unused seats in a cinema, who better to sit next to than Oscar winner Emma Stone, Beyoncé or Tom Hardy? And who doesn’t want to get some writing tips by studying next to the likes of the multi-talented Idris Elba, Lady Gaga or Pink?” the company says.

While the celebrity cut-outs might be a bit of fun, and ‘perfect for those Instagram selfies or TikToks’, they are also delivering a serious message about social distancing and represent just one of the measures that Student Roost says it is taking to keep residents safe ahead of the 2020/21 academic year.

Other steps include deep cleaning of every room before new residents arrive; an eight-step cleaning process of all communal areas, including fogging; hand sanitiser stations around properties; wipe stations in games rooms, gyms and cinemas; and contactless parcel collection.

There is also increased signage and restrictions on the numbers of people allowed to use laundry rooms and other shared spaces, as well as new processes for arrivals, including pre-booking appointment slots, and additional support for any residents who need to self-isolate. Online viewings are also available on Instagram, WhatsApp and FaceTime.

Student Roost is also working with NSF, an independent public health and safety organisation, to help minimise Covid-19 risks and take appropriate preventative measures.

Nathan Goddard, chief executive of Student Roost, said: “These are difficult times and our priority throughout this pandemic has always been on keeping all our residents and team members safe.”

“We’ve been taking the tough measures to increase cleaning and hygiene across all our properties. But we also need to make sure we can still deliver a fun experience for our residents that’s social, but socially distanced, because people go to university for more than just an education.”

He added: “We have some great social, fitness and study spaces across our properties. The celebrity cut-outs are making it easy for our residents to follow the local and national rules that are in place to protect everyone, while enabling us to safely reopen the spaces that they love.”

Last year, Student Roost was rated number one accommodation provider by Student Crowd, based on reviews from residents themselves.

The firm says it has put in place a ‘Covid-19 Booking Promise’ across all its UK properties for the 2020/21 academic year, which means residents can cancel for no extra charge if their university delays its course start dates, or if they cannot travel to their university or take up their place.

This is on top of Student Roost’s existing policy to set termly rent payment dates after residents have received their student loans.

We recently reported on the company’s newest scheme, situated close to Warwick University, which is set to open early. Once complete, it will provide 378 beds just a short walk from campus as well as helping to free up more affordable housing for residents within Coventry and Leamington Spa (where many students currently reside).

You can see a video of the measures that Student Roost is taking, including the celebrities, below: 

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