Case Study

University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Residential Planning Services, 2018-2019

In June 2018, the University of Washington’s Department of Housing & Food Services selected the team of Demographic Perspectives and U3 Advisors to undertake a comprehensive student housing planning study. UW was completing the final phase of a major housing master plan, resulting in a 60% bed increase and replacement of 70% of the existing residential buildings. Given the University’s significant off-campus student population – about 70% of its 28,000 full-time undergraduates and most of its 12,000 graduate students - live off-campus – the University sought to understand the impacts of growing pressures in the Seattle real estate market and evolving student preferences on future campus housing needs.

Demographic Perspectives and U3 Advisors led UW through a series of studies, student surveys, focus groups, and stakeholder interviews to understand student housing demand. Using a rigorous GIS-based market and demographic scan, the U3 Advisors mapped where off-campus undergraduate and graduate students live, analyzed distance and time to campus by public transit, and identified major clusters of off-campus student housing within neighborhoods throughout Seattle and the region, as well as major individual properties.


DP designed and administered a comprehensive student survey for both undergraduate and graduate students, assessing students’ housing priorities, decision-making factors when choosing housing as well as in choosing to attend UW, and overall preferences and price sensitivities. For both mapping and survey results, DP and U3 Advisors assessed findings and patterns by a range of student types, such as class year, state of residency and nationality, first-generation status, and household status (i.e. living with a partner or children).


The University of Washington sought an understanding of the on and off-campus housing climate for its students in the greater Seattle metropolitan area.  Demographic Perspectives was instrumental in helping us ask the right questions, gather quality data and accurately and clearly represent the data to inform decision-making.  The collaboration with Demographic Perspectives provides us with confidence to continue to serve students over the next decade.

Rob Lubin, Director, Facilities and Capital Planning


DP and U3 Advisors also developed an in-depth real estate market analysis of Seattle and the broader region to understand housing costs, options, and future supply relative to UW’s on-campus housing product. This included quantifying the pipeline of known units in new construction approved to date, and evaluating the potential impacts of major citywide changes, including an expanded light rail system and citywide rezoning to increase housing density. Finally, as part of this scope, U3 Advisors evaluated options and implementation structures for potential new projects that UW could consider on selected UW-owned land.

Actionable Outcomes

  • Product and policy outcomes included:
    • Determining whether UW would need to consider providing additional housing within the next five to ten years.
    • Confirming how specific segments of the undergraduate and graduate student population would respond to increased private market rents as well as to new UW housing offerings.
    • Recommendations for UW to consider developing a variety of housing strategies appropriate for different population segments.

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