The Trump Administration is considering a plan in which student housing owners could master lease their assets to create makeshift hospital beds to provide support during the coronavirus, according to remarks Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker made during a webinar. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the White House are currently working on that, he said.
The appeal is clear from a public health perspective: The US has 924,000 total hospital beds and roughly 5% of those beds are in intensive care units, according to projections by James Lawler, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that were reported by Axios. He believes the coronavirus will eventually lead to 4.8 million hospitalizations.
Presumably, there would be appeal to the student housing operators as well, given that many colleges have sent their students home, probably for the rest of the semester.
But Walker told listeners that when he talked to some of these operators about the idea they were reticent. One reason is that some students are still occupying the buildings. One reason is that pre-leasing activity for the next year has been strong for student housing. “The problem for student housing owners is that the coronavirus is a binary event,” Walker said, meaning that the coronavirus will either have receded by the fall or not.