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U.S. Higher Education Privatized Student Housing Projects Outlook Revised To Negative On Potential COVID-19 Impact

CHICAGO (S&P Global Ratings) March 25, 2020--S&P Global Ratings revised the outlook to negative and affirmed its ratings on all U.S. higher education privatized (off balance sheet, or OBS) student housing projects in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties surrounding the ultimate economic fallout (see list below). The negative outlook reflects our belief that all projects in the sector are facing negative economic or fundamental business conditions that could result in lower ratings over the next one-two years. In addition, the negative outlook reflects expected challenges facing the industry due to a sudden and potentially prolonged decline in student housing occupancy and associated loss of rental revenue, as many colleges and universities have moved to remote learning. This situation is evolving, with uncertainty around the potential effects. Given this and the lack of clarity around the possible duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, in our opinion, fall 2020 enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities will likely be weaker than expected, and occupancy in privatized student housing projects could be negatively affected. The outlook on projects that already maintain a negative outlook due to project-specific reasons will not change.

As of March 25, 2020, S&P Global Ratings maintained 63 public ratings on privatized student housing projects in the U.S. While the majority of these projects are secured by a non-recourse pledge of net housing project revenues, a small number benefit from additional financial support from their related underlying institution, whether in the form of a first-fill agreement, or a lease-vacancy guaranty. Our ratings on these housing projects range from 'A+' to 'CC'. Approximately 76% of our overall ratings are investment-grade and about 24% of our ratings are in the speculative-grade category--a higher percentage than a few years ago.

A negative outlook is not necessarily a precursor to a rating change and we could revise the outlook to stable over the outlook period. We will review all ratings individually with respect to a project's specific exposure to, and ability to mitigate against, declining occupancy and loss of rental revenue. We could revise the outlook on specific ratings to stable on a case-by-case basis in the near-to-medium term (between three months and one-two years) as we assess risk mitigation. At the same time, we could lower the ratings, some of which could be multi-notch downgrades. In our opinion, while we expect to know more in the next few months about fiscal 2020 operations, there is still uncertainty around fall occupancy. Many student housing projects will be more susceptible to near-term operating pressure associated with decreased occupancy and potential rental revenue refunds, and could require the use of reserves to meet debt service payments in full and on time. Other projects may receive financial support from their sponsor institutions, which we would view positively.

Since these projects' bonds are typically secured solely by project cash flows non-recourse to the sponsor institution, they rely upon student occupancy and rental revenue generation, and are most vulnerable to missed revenues. With universities encouraging or mandating that students leave campus for their own safety, student housing occupancies are declining.

In the past couple of weeks, some of the universities where these projects are located have made announcements to their communities allowing students to terminate or cancel their lease arrangements without charging a cancellation fee or rent after the student has vacated the unit. Many of the privatized student housing projects on these campuses will likely be compelled to also issue rental proration and refunds. In certain cases, the sponsor institutions have agreed to pay the privatized student housing projects the rent they would have received under the terminated or cancelled lease agreements upon submission of appropriate documentation. In our view, this extraordinary university support is a positive credit factor that mitigates the projects' operating risk in the short term. However, even in these cases, we believe there is medium-term risk related to fall 2020 enrollment and related housing occupancies, and the future ability or willingness of these sponsor institutions to help support the projects.

Significant enrollment and occupancy losses in fall 2020 could affect even facilities that have experienced strong occupancy historically and received demonstrated financial support from their sponsor institutions. The effects on these projects could be disproportionate, as the situation may vary from campus to campus. For all credits, an extended COVID-19 duration, and correspondingly more severe economic fallout, has the potential to result in diminished occupancies in student housing that, in the long term, could be inconsistent with current rating levels, in our opinion. It is clear that the current situation is fluid and that the longer-term implications of COVID-19 might not be manifest in the short term.

The outlook period is two years for investment-grade ratings and one year for non-investment grade ratings. Overall, the negative outlook for individual privatized student housing financings will be resolved over time, as we complete individual reviews and the financial and operating impact from COVID-19 can be better estimated. In particular, S&P Global Ratings will be evaluating, among other things, the following credit factors:

  • The timing of each project's debt service payments and its ability to pay debt service in full and on time from operations;
  • The role the sponsor institution plays in supporting the project;
  • The impact of lost rental revenue or prorated rental refunds on fiscal 2020 financial results, if applicable;
  • Fiscal 2020 debt service coverage (DSC) levels and any use of reserves;
  • For new construction projects, any delays resulting in negative financial impact on the project;
  • Summer and fall 2020 occupancy levels and fiscal 2021 financial projections; and
  • Management teams' strategies for addressing potential revenue declines.

Credit factors that could lead to a negative rating action in the near term include net project operating revenues that pressure DSC levels or impede the project's ability to make on-time and in-full debt service payments. In the medium term, lower-than-targeted occupancy in fall 2020 that stresses fiscal 2021 operations and DSC levels could also lead to a lower rating. Although we understand COVID-19 to be a global risk, we could consider a negative rating action during the outlook period should unforeseen pressures related to the pandemic materially affect demand, finances, DSC, or the trajectory of the project.

We could revise the outlook to stable for projects that are able to demonstrate extraordinary support in the form of financial backing from their university sponsor or alternative revenue sources that mitigates pressure on net project operating revenues, indicating the ability to maintain DSC levels and to make on-time and in-full debt service payments for fiscal 2020 and projected fiscal 2021. We would also consider the strength of the project's capital reserves and assess the project's ability to maintain them at the required covenant levels. In the medium term, projects that achieve target or higher occupancy in fall 2020 that benefits fiscal 2021 operations, reserves, and DSC levels would be viewed positively.

Projects With Negative Outlooks
Obligor Project Related college or university State Rating Previous outlook
Abby Lane Housing Corp. Centennial Hall College of Environmental Science and Forestry NY A Stable
Allegany College Housing LLC Willowbrook Woods Allegany College of Maryland MD BB+ Negative
Beech International LLC Beech International Apartment Complex Temple University PA BBB- Stable
Beyond Boone LLC Appalachian State University NC BBB- Stable
Buffalo State College Housing Corp. Student Apartment Complex (STAC) Buffalo State College NY A+ Stable
CDFI Phase I LLC South Campus Apartments The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga TN BBB Stable
CHF Ashland LLC Raider Village University of Southern Oregon OR BBB- Stable
CHF Chicago LLC University of Illinois at Chicago IL BBB- Stable
CHF Collegiate Housing College Station I LLC White Creek Apartments Texas A&M University System - College Station TX BBB- Stable
CHF Collegiate Housing Corpus Christi I LLC Momentum Village Phase I Texas A&M University System - Corpus Christi TX B- Negative
CHF Collegiate Housing Corpus Christi II LLC Momentum Village Phase II Texas A&M University System - Corpus Christi TX B Negative
CHF Collegiate Housing Denton LLC Texas Woman's University TX BBB- Stable
CHF Collegiate Housing Island Campus LLC Miramar Texas A&M University System - Corpus Christi TX BB+ Negative
CHF Collegiate Housing San Antonio I LLC Esperanza Hall Texas A&M University System - San Antonio TX BBB- Negative
CHF Collegiate Housing Stephenville I LLC Heritage Hall Tarleton State University TX BBB- Stable
CHF Collegiate Housing Stephenville II LLC Integrity Hall Tarleton State University TX BBB- Stable
CHF Collegiate Housing Stephenville III LLC Traditions & Honors Hall Tarleton State University TX BBB- Stable
CHF Cook LLC Northeastern Illinois University IL B- Stable
CHF Cullowhee LLC Noble Hall Western Carolina University NC BBB- Stable
CHF DeKalb II LLC Northern Illinois University IL B+ Stable
CHF Dover LLC Delaware State University DE BB+ Stable
CHF Toledo LLC Honors Academic Village University of Toledo OH BBB- Stable
CHF Wyoming LLC Bison Run Village University of Wyoming WY BBB Stable
Empire Commons Student Housing Inc. Empire Commons University at Albany NY A Stable
Feather River College Foundation Feather River College Residence Halls Feather River College CA BBB Stable
Foundation for Indiana University of Pennsylvania Phase II Indiana University of Pennsylvania PA BBB Negative
Foundation for Indiana University of Pennsylvania Phase III Indiana University of Pennsylvania PA BBB Negative
Housing Northwest Inc. Clifton House Portland State University OR BB- Negative
Housing Northwest Inc. Goose Hollow Portland State University OR BBB- Stable
Lock Haven University Foundation Evergreen Commons Lock Haven University PA BBB- Negative
Longwood University Real Estate Foundation Longwood University VI BBB- Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. Edgewood Commons Student Housing Frostburg State University MD BBB- Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. Morgan View Student Housing Morgan State University MD BBB- Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. University Village at Sheppard Pratt Towson University MD BBB- Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. West Village and Millennium Hall Towson University MD BBB Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. University System of Maryland - Baltimore MD BBB- Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. Christa McAuliffe Student Housing Bowie State University MD BBB- Stable
Maryland Economic Development Corp. Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community Bowie State University MD BBB- Stable
Monroe Community College Association Inc. Monroe Community College NY BBB- Stable
National Campus & Community Development Corp - College Station Properties LLC Park West Texas A&M University System - College Station TX CCC Negative
National Campus & Community Development Corp - Hooper Street LLC California College of the Arts CA BB+ Stable
National Campus & Community Development Corp - Orange Coast Properties LLC Orange Coast College CA BBB- Stable
North Carolina A&T University Foundation Inc. Aggie Terrace Project North Carolina A&T State University NC BBB- Stable
North Carolina A&T University Real Estate Foundation Inc. Campus Edge and the Pointes North Carolina A&T State University NC BBB- Stable
Onondaga Community College Housing Development Corp. Onondaga Community College NY BBB Stable
Portage County Improvement Corp. Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine OH BBB+ Stable
Provident Commonwealth Education Resources II University of Massachusetts System - Dartmouth MA BBB- Stable
Provident Commonwealth Educational Resources University of Massachusetts System - Boston MA BBB- Stable
Provident Group - Howard Properties LLC College Street and Bryant Street Residence Halls Howard University DC BB+ Stable
Provident Group - Kean Properties LLC Kean University NJ BBB- Stable
Provident Group - Rowan Properties LLC Holly Pointe Commons Rowan University NJ BBB- Stable
Provident Oklahoma Education Resources Inc. Cross Village University of Oklahoma OK CC Negative
Public Finance Authority State Campus Village Nevada State College NV BB Stable
Purchase College Foundation Housing Corp. Alumni Village Purchase College NY A Stable
Purchase Housing Corporation II Purchase College NY BBB Stable
Ridgecrest Student Housing LLC Ridgecrest North & Ridgecrest South University of Alabama AL A- Stable
Student Services Inc. Millersville University of Pennsylvania PA BBB- Stable
Texas Student Housing Corp. Jefferson Commons University of North Texas TX B Stable
University of Wisconsin-Platteville Real Estate Foundation Inc. Roundtree Commons University of Wisconsin - Platteville WI BBB- Stable
University Park at Evansdale LLC University Park West Virginia University WV BBB- Stable
University Properties Inc. East Stroudsburg University PA BBB- Stable
Upstate Properties Development Inc. Geneva Tower Upstate Medical University NY A+ Negative
West Campus Housing LLC West Campus Village New Jersey City University NJ BB+ Negative

The list above may also be downloaded here:

https://www.standardandpoors.com/pt_LA/web/guest/article/-/view/sourceId/100042751

Certain terms used in this report, particularly certain adjectives used to express our view on rating relevant factors, have specific meanings ascribed to them in our criteria, and should therefore be read in conjunction with such criteria. Please see Ratings Criteria at www.standardandpoors.com for further information. Complete ratings information is available to subscribers of RatingsDirect at www.capitaliq.com. All ratings affected by this rating action can be found on S&P Global Ratings' public website at www.standardandpoors.com. Use the Ratings search box located in the left column.

Primary Credit Analysts:Jessica L Wood, Chicago (1) 312-233-7004;
jessica.wood@spglobal.com
Laura A Kuffler-Macdonald, New York (1) 212-438-2519;
laura.kuffler.macdonald@spglobal.com
Secondary Contacts:Jessica H Goldman, New York (1) 212-438-6484;
jessica.goldman@spglobal.com
Ying Huang, San Francisco (1) 415-371-5008;
ying.huang@spglobal.com
Ken W Rodgers, New York (1) 212-438-2087;
ken.rodgers@spglobal.com
Mary Ellen E Wriedt, San Francisco (1) 415-371-5027;
maryellen.wriedt@spglobal.com

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