Students and office-goers are returning to Bengaluru and owners of paying-guest accommodations are witnessing a steady recovery of business.
“Our space was almost empty last year. But in the last two months, we have once again reached pre-pandemic occupancy,” says Tabassum Farhana, owner of a girls’ PG in Kammanahalli. It accommodates 50.
Another PG in RR Nagar is currently at 70% occupancy. “The corporate workforce of Bengaluru is yet to fully return, as the majority continue to work remotely. We are faring well now thanks to colleges and universities resuming offline classes,” Rajesh Y, owner, tells Metrolife.
Ashokaraj Panambur, president, Bengaluru PG Owners’ Association, says not all big companies have resumed full-fledged operations. “In companies where employees report at the office three days a week, they are commuting from their hometowns like Tumakuru, Doddaballapura and Mandya,” he explains.
Panambur says rents are lower than before. “Before the pandemic, owners could dictate the terms. But now, tenants do,” he says.
Rajesh is in agreement, “We are in no position to increase the rent for tenants even marginally. We cannot lose any more tenants,” adds the owner of the co-ed PG.
The demographics of the PG accommodation use depends on the location. “PG accommodations closer to colleges have student crowd and those close to tech parks have working professionals,” says Panambur.
Youth staying away
In Bengaluru, a PG accommodation with three occupants comes for Rs 5,000-7,000 per head and twin-sharing for Rs 6,500 or more.
“Owners who had constructed buildings solely for PG accommodations in Whitefield, Bellandur and Electronics City had to shut them down as IT professionals left for their hometowns. About 8,000 PG accommodations suspended operations during the pandemic. A thousand or more did reopen but have been struggling since. Some have converted their PG accommodations into 1 BHK or 2 BHK rental flats for families,” says Panambur.
More and more young people now prefer shared apartments over PGs. People value freedom and privacy, says the manager of a PG in Vasanth Nagar.
The trend is more prevalent among men. “Last year we shut down our PG accommodation for men, when we realised it was a doomed business. However, PG accommodations still remain fairly popular among women,” he adds.
For Sushmita S, a corporate employee, spending a little more on a shared apartment makes sense.
“But there has been an unreasonable hike in rent across the city. Especially in Indiranagar, Koramangala and Vasanth Nagar. Owners are being exploitative as there is an increase in demand,” she says.
“The rent was pretty cheap in January, even inside branded gated communities. House owners were quoting Rs 15,000 for a 2BHK, with Rs 50,000 as advance. In March, my brother was asked to pay Rs 24,000 inclusive of maintenance and Rs 1.5 lakh as advance for a 2BHK ,” says Prajeet Nair, tech journalist who moved back to Bengaluru last month for a new job, settling down in a 2 BHK flat with a rent of Rs 17,000 (plus maintenance) in the Subramanyapura area.
Ankit (name changed on request) says the rent inflation is a result of “panic renting”. Companies are not giving specific dates about when the offices are resuming, and employees don’t want to be caught unawares, says the communication specialist, who’s been hunting for a 2BHK flat in the Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 range along Bannerghatta Road and adjoining areas but has been unsuccessful in the last two months.
Property agent Irfan Khan says owners have reverted to pre-Covid rents. “But, yes, some owners are demanding a 10-month deposit, unlike the four or five months’ rent they were taking earlier,” he says. This is to ensure that if another wave strikes, people don’t leave them in the lurch, he explains.
Business insiders say many students now prefer co-living spaces to PG accommodations. These come with fully-functional kitchens, common rooms, and managers who organise group activities. Most occupants at such spaces are singles in the 18-30 age group, in their first or second job. “You get to be a part of a community. It’s more lively and relaxed. Plus, you don’t have to pay a huge deposit,” says Shashank P, who moved to Bengaluru in January.
Ashokaraj Panambur, president, Bengaluru PG Owners’ Association, says, “According to BBMP records, Bengaluru had 18,000-20,000 registered PG accommodations before pandemic. The unregistered number is higher.”