October 23, 2023


Singapore co-living investor and operator The Assembly Place has opened the doors to its largest student housing complex to date in a joint venture with Apricot Capital, the family office of instant coffee king David Teo.

The partners spent S$46 million ($33.54 million) to acquire and refurbish the two-building property now rebranded as the Campus by The Assembly Place, offering 426 accommodation pods and shared facilities for students in District 15, The Assembly Place founder and chief executive Eugene Lim told Mingtiandi on Monday.

Acquired in a deal that closed in March, the project in the eastern part of the city-state brings The Assembly Place’s co-living portfolio to 1,800 beds in over 120 locations in Singapore, boosting the five-year-old firm more than halfway to its goal of becoming a regional player with a 3,000-key portfolio by next year.

“With the shift in mindsets and lifestyle preferences, TAP is optimistic that demand and occupancy for co-living will remain strong due to its cost-efficiency, social connections and convenience,” the firm said in a statement on Thursday

Quadrupling the Keys

The Campus occupies a 104,469 square foot (9,706 square metre) site near Kembangan MRT station at 116 Lorong J and 119 Lorong K in Telok Kurau. With one of the housing blocks standing three storeys high and the other at four floors, the project caters to students at nearby educational institutions including the Canadian International School and Global Indian International School.

The Assembly Place and Apricot paid S$40 million to purchase the asset and spent another S$6 million on renovation. The buildings, previously operated as the 115-room East Lodge Hostel, occupy a 103-year leasehold site, with The Assembly Place having nearly quadrupled the number of keys in the project through its renovation of the property.

Excluding renovation costs, the consideration translates to S$383 per square foot of site area for the project, or roughly one-third higher than the asset’s S$30 million guide price when it first hit the market in September of last year. On a per room basis that price is equivalent to S$347,826 each, with some rooms now set up to accommodate seven students.

Apricot owns a majority interest in the Campus while The Assembly Place holds a minority stake and serves as the asset operator, Lim said. With beds in the facility renting for an average of S$850 per month and ranging up to S$1,600 per month, he expects the project to yield at least S$4 million in revenue annually.

Each student pod includes a bed, wardrobe, study table, shelves and space for luggage. Residents also have access to more than 20 shared facilities within the complex including kitchens, study rooms, an indoor gym and outdoor amenities.

Most students in the complex are from China and Southeast Asia, according to local media accounts and are attending institutions including James Cook University, Kaplan City Campus and Singapore University of Technology and Design.

“We realise that most student accommodation in Singapore would just have a single bed with a small desk beside it,” Lim said in a statement. “What we have created is a self-sufficient loft system that our students can still enjoy their own privacy while staying with fellow members in the room.”

Partnership Expands

Lim said the latest partnership marks the first ever joint acquisition by The Assembly Place with Apricot, with the co-living firm already operating a pair of projects owned by the family office.

Apricot-invested properties at 257 Outram Road in the Tiong Bahru area and at 138 and 140 Jalan Besar in Farrer Park/Rochor both opened in April of last year.

The Assembly Place, which offers rooms in hotels, shophouses, landed homes and individual condos, as well as purpose-built projects, has also been growing through acquisition, with the company last year having picked up rival co-living operator Commontown Singapore, according to local media accounts.

The Teo family has been expanding their real estate holdings after cashing out of their instant food and beverage business Super Group in 2017 for S$1.45 billion. Aside from the co-living venture, Apricot acquired the Serene Centre residential and retail complex in Bukit Timah earlier this month for S$105 million.

Co-Living Gathers Steam

Shared student accommodation is gaining popularity in Singapore as the sector benefits from the wave returning international students post pandemic, said Chia Mein Mein, head of capital markets for land and collective sales at Knight Frank, who brokered the deal.

“The expected normalising of cross border enrollment will result in an increase of international students, supporting demand for student housing in the months and year ahead,” Mein Mein said on Monday.

Another local player currently building its Singapore co-living portfolio is SGX-listed LHN Group, which in July purchased a pair of retail and residential buildings at 286 and 288 River Valley Road for S$23.25 million.

JLL report in June showed that LHN currently leads Singapore’s co-living sector with its portfolio already accounting for 20 percent of the market, followed by The Assembly Place which had a 16 percent market share at that juncture.

Going International

Lim said opening the Campus keeps it on track to achieve an operating portfolio of 2,000 beds by the end of 2023 with the company set to open shared residences 18 Roberts Lane near Farrer Park and at 21 Lor 13 Geylang in Geylang by the end of December.

Its portfolio is now 95 percent occupied, with the firm expecting demand and occupancy for co-living to remain strong amid an ongoing shift in mindset and lifestyle preferences among Singaporeans seeking cost-efficient and convenient housing.

Lim said the brand is on track to go regional next year with the opening of its first-ever location outside of Singapore – a 66-room facility in Malaysia.

“We will be opening our first co-living hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in [the first quarter of next year],” Lim said. “Plans are underway to bring The Assembly Place to another two to three markets in 2024.”