80% of Cape Town students can't find dedicated beds – overhauling the train station will help, a bit

Business Insider SA
(Eris Property Group)
(Eris Property Group)
  • Around 75,000 students are studying in Cape Town, but the city only has enough dedicated beds to accommodate 13,668.
  • The shortage in, and around the city centre, which hosts campuses of three major tertiary institutions, is most severe.
  • But at least one new development, overhauling the forecourt of the city's central train station, will add more than 3,000 student beds in 2024.
  • For more stories go to

Students studying in Cape Town are struggling to find dedicated accommodation, but a new development at the city's central train station will open more beds.

There's a dire shortfall of student accommodation in South Africa.

More than 500,000 students are in need of dedicated beds located close to their respective universities, according to a 2020 study conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). This shortage is expected to grow by more than 50% over the next three years as government's ambition to increase enrolments outpaces the development of new student housing.

Cape Town isn't immune to the national shortage. With the three major tertiary institutions – the University of Cape Town (UCT), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) – all having campuses in and around the city centre, the demand for student accommodation is high.

With a student population of around 75,000, Cape Town only has 13,668 student beds, according to the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID). That leaves around 80% of students without dedicated accommodation.

As much as this housing shortage is a problem for students, the CCID sees it as a great opportunity to increase supply and breathe new life into the city centre.

"To capitalise on this market, it's imperative that the CBD remains a welcoming, safe, and clean space for students and investors alike. The CCID plays a massively important role in this," said Rob Kane, chairperson of the CCID and CEO of Boxwood Property Fund.

One new inner-city development aimed at addressing this demand is Eris Property Group's R1,5 billion conversion of the Cape Town Station Forecourt. The property group recently secured the forecourt on a long-term lease from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

Once completed, the new development will span 2.5 hectares. The first phase of the project will include 6,700m² of modern retail space – to be known as the Cape Station – and a 3,085-bed, purpose-built student accommodation facility.

The retail portion of the development will be anchored by Spar, Tops, and Clicks. The student accommodation facility will offer self-catering accommodation in the form of four-, three- and one-bedroom apartments. The building will also have a gym, cinema, games rooms, study rooms, TV lounges, collaboration lounges, laundry facilities, computer rooms, and urban gardens.

Construction is expected to finish in November 2023, just in time for the 2024 student intake.

"We are currently looking for opportunities across South Africa at almost all the universities. Cape Town has become attractive for developers and investors as it has a high density of students at universities as well as other tertiary institutions," said Jan van Vuuren, the executive head of student accommodation at the Eris Property Group.

"Additionally, greater Cape Town's councils and municipalities are fairly easy to navigate when it comes to the town planning process, and bulk services are mostly available, thanks to organisations like the CCID, no doubt."

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