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1 Big Reason American Campus Communities Is Worth a Closer Look

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – Aug 27, 2021 at 6:48AM

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The student housing REIT could be a big winner as the school year gets underway.

American Campus Communities (ACC) is seeing its business rebound quite strongly compared with last year, but believe it or not, the company's college housing properties might not even be the most exciting part of the business. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on Aug. 17, Millionacres real estate investment trust analyst Matt Frankel, CFP, and editor Deidre Woollard discuss a massive project American Campus Communities is currently building and why it's such a big deal.

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Matthew Frankel: I drove by their Disney (DIS -0.01%) project last week. That is impressive. I know you saw the numbers on that.

Deidre Woollard: Yes. This is something I really want to talk about because I think this is a fascinating project.

Frankel: Yeah. When we first heard that they were building the housing for Disney's internship program. I mean, I'm as guilty of this as anybody. I was like, "Oh, that's another property. It's like a dorm." No, this is a huge project. That, when it's completed is going to be over 10% of their available beds I believe. I drove by and they've only completed four out of 10 phases.

Woollard: Yeah.

Frankel: Of the project. I didn't know what it was at first, we drove by what looked like an apartment complex except it went on forever. I said "what is that?" We were right next to Disney World at the time. I said that has to be the apartment and it was. The Flamingo Crossings Village is what it's called and it's going to have almost 5,000 beds with four out of 10 phases complete. This is a massive community. I mean, 4,000 beds is like a small college.

Woollard: Yeah.

Frankel: Like the student population. They are anticipating 85% occupancy. I know I had a lot of friends in college who did the Disney internship program. It's a big program and it's tougher to think of a tenant that's more safe paying their bills than Disney.

Woollard: Go ahead.

Frankel: No. I mean, college students are great, but rent collection is not 100%. You have people running through financial trouble throughout the year. The Disney internship program's a pretty reliable tenant in my opinion.

Woollard: Yeah. They were talking about it on the earnings call. Talking about how they're making the building itself really Disney-fied and getting that community aspect of it. On the earnings call, they were very bullish about it and I mean, there's just so much potential for that because there's also the whole Disney Leadership Institute and all of that. If this goes well, there's massive opportunities for expansion and I know you just bought in Orlando. I think that's a city that is really interesting. I talked to the head of the Realtor Association last week because Orlando, I think people just think of it as just Disney, but that is a city with a lot of growth potential.

Frankel: Yeah. People think it's built out. No, it's not. I mean, Disney has enough land, they could build another theme park or two if they wanted do. That's where we saw the housing, we were heading home from our Orlando house. It's got a lot of potential and right now it's packed in Orlando. One of their biggest sources of business, international tourism, hasn't really come back yet.

Woollard: Right.

Frankel: It feels busy now compared to pre pandemic levels, it's really not and it's a lot of potential for American Campus to use that to leverage other relationships over time. I mean, Disney is not the only one that has a big internship program that needs housing in the country. It's an outside-the-box way to really grow the business.

Woollard: Well, and I thought that as a test case, too, because you can't, like you said, you can't really have a more prestige client if that works out really well, that is a great way for them to show this and to really get into an area that is sort of like their core business, but also just adjacent enough to potentially have a different type of income. I think that's really interesting because I think sometimes when you have a company that is a pure play on one thing, there is always that risk if there's something that occurs. It's nice to see just a little bit of something else that they can focus on that's slightly different.

Matthew Frankel, CFP owns shares of American Campus Communities and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends American Campus Communities. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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