With over 700,000 international students choosing to study in Canada each year, the country has seen a surge in demand for residential units. In just the last five years the number of students has jumped by 34%, creating a demand for housing at a level insufficient to immediately justify new building but strong enough to create a deficit of rental availability in the existing rentalverse.
As universities and colleges across Canada compete for the premium dollars of international students, many decisive lifestyle and financial factors remain beyond the school's control, such as cost of living and housing availability near campus. Mainstreet Equity identified this growing niche early on, recognizing that these students represented both significant spending power and long-term rental consumers, possessing the financial wherewithal to study abroad and so committing to one city for at least three to four years as well.
While historically the majority of these students have studied in Ontario, Quebec, and BC, the 11% that choose Western Canada must be spreading the word, because the number of students being priced out of Ontario and seeing the amount of opportunity in the West is growing fast. Even just the five percent share of these students Alberta currently takes in represent 35,000 tenants in that province alone.
Mainstreet Equity has capitalized on this growing demographic by concentrating their acquisitions in strategic clusters around post-secondary educational institutions and in the central inner-city areas where students have easy access to amenities and necessities alike without needing an expensive car. Focusing on student housing has paid off the company, a strategy which CEO Bob Dhillon has said is just beginning despite already contributing to a 49 percent year to date return as of Q3 2019.
Not only international students, but the majority of Millennials and Generation-Z have been completely priced out of home ownership, something further swelling the number of tenants in Mainstreet's pool and feeding the demand for rental units across the regions. Over 73 percent of Mainstreet units in recent years have been rented by this age group, also comprising the majority of international students.