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Head of the Class: CPPIB, GIC and Scion Acquire 24 Student Housing Properties for $1.1 Billion

Deal Represents Second Purchase in Past 12 Months from Harrison Street Real Estate
January 3, 2018
Scion Student Communities, a student housing investment group that includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), GIC and The Scion Group LLC, has acquired a U.S. student housing portfolio for $1.1 billion, or about $80,500/bed.

The investment group is buying 22 properties from affiliates of Harrison Street Real Estate Capital. The deal also includes the recapitalization of two student-housing communities previously owned by Scion-affiliated private syndications.

Chicago-based Harrison Street Real Estate had assembled its 22 dormitories in the portfolio over the past several years mainly through one-off transactions across five of its different investment funds.

The entire portfolio consists of 24 assets located in 20 different university markets across the country comprising 13,666 beds. The portfolio includes a mix of recently developed rental housing as well as some value-added assets, CPPIB said in announcing the deal.

"This is a compelling investment opportunity to efficiently build further scale in the U.S. student housing sector with a portfolio of high-quality, well-located properties in new and existing joint venture markets," said Hilary Spann, managing director, head of Americas, real estate investments, CPPIB.

"We believe the secular strength of the U.S. student housing sector will continue to deliver attractive, risk-adjusted returns for the CPP Fund, and we look forward to continue growing the joint venture with GIC and Scion," added Spann.

Scion president Robert Bronstein called the transaction "particularly strategic" given the joint venture was adding six properties in markets in which it already owns other student housing properties.

"This is consistent with our strategy to concentrate our investments in targeted markets by owning multiple properties with diverse product types and rental price point options," Bronstein said.

Since its inception in January 2016, the joint venture known as Scion Student Communities has completed over $4 billion of investments, primarily through four portfolio transactions, deploying $1.4 billion in equity capital. CPPIB and GIC each own a 45% interest in the newly acquired portfolio and Scion owns the remaining 10%.

The joint venture's national portfolio now includes 73 student housing communities in 52 top-tier university markets, comprising 46,555 beds. The average effective age of the portfolio is less than five years and over 70% of the assets are located within one mile of their respective campuses.

This was the second student housing portfolio in the past year that Harrison Street has sold to the CPPIB/GIC/Scion joint venture. Last March, it sold nine student housing properties to Scion Student Communities for $465 million.

Harrison Street is still one of the largest private investors in the student housing market with over 73,000 beds throughout the U.S. and Europe. It also invests in medical office properties, senior housing communities and self-storage facilities.

Christopher Merrill, co-founder, president and CEO of Harrison Street, said the portfolio sale reflects its strategy of acquiring single student housing assets or development opportunities located near large universities, increasing tenancy and packaging them for sale to other investors.

Peter Katz, executive managing director of Marcus & Millichap's IPA Student Housing Division, served as a strategic consultant to Harrison Street on the transaction.

Separately this week, Harrison Street acquired a portfolio of 25 medical office buildings from Minneapolis-based Investors Real Estate Trust (NYSE: IRET) for $367.7 million.

For IRET, the sale was a major milestone as the final disposition in its goal to refocus as a multifamily company. It plans to deploy proceeds from the MOB portfolio sale to acquire multifamily properties in the Twin Cities and Denver.

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