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UM sounds alarm about shortage of affordable student rooms

UM sounds alarm about shortage of affordable student rooms

Photographer:Fotograaf: Stephanie Kilgast

MAASTRICHT. Great concerns in Maastricht about the shortage of affordable student rooms. Both Maastricht University and the Maastricht Association of Living Accommodation Letters (Vereniging Verhuurders Woonruimtes Maastricht, or VVWM) sounded the alarm in a letter to the city council before Christmas. The UM proposed some solutions – expansion of the Annadal Guesthouse and 250 container apartments in Randwijck – but counts on the city council’s cooperation. The willingness is there, says Fred Bunk, accommodation policy advisor, because the city council also expects problems in the cheaper segment.

August and September are peak months as far as student housing is concerned. It was the same last year. Especially foreign students find it hard to get a room. Every year, most of the problems are solved after the first few weeks in September. But not this time. According to the association of landlords VVWM (Vereniging Verhuurders Woonruimtes Maastricht), there are still a lot of students searching for accommodation and a blind eye is turned to “illegal lodgers”, with two people sharing a single room.
The Maastricht city council bases itself on a so-called accommodation programming, taking into account the growth of Maastricht University and Hogeschool Zuyd. But because of the considerable number of especially foreign students looking for rooms, the council's forecast is not in line with reality, the landlords write. Besides, in the booming Maastricht housing market, quite a few student houses have been sold to couples and families. In addition, the Gemeenteflat on Koningsplein, where 175 students lived until last year, is being converted into a luxury apartment complex.
In short, there is a shortage of student rooms. More to the point: affordable rooms, because for the rooms in the new Student Hotel or Carré rents are charged of up to 600 or 700 euro, which means that they are only available for a limited group.

The UM's Executive Board already informed the University Council about the housing problems in a committee meeting on 8 November and guaranteed the availability of 600 new student rooms in the next year. However, this turns out to be not so much of a guarantee, says the UM spokesman now. Nor did they mention that number in their letter to the city council. In this letter, UM President Martin Paul and vice-chair Nick Bos, also chairman of the Maastricht Student Housing Association, called for swift action, because looking forward to August 2018, the university will grow to 17,873 students, approximately four hundred more than in 2017.

An additional problem is the delayed completion date of 257 rooms in the former Bonnefanten College. These will not be ready until 2019. The UM itself wants to expand the Guesthouse on the Brouwersweg, adding seventy rooms. They also propose 250 rooms in “flexible accommodation”, container apartments, in Randwijck.
The landlords of VVWM, supported by the Maastricht Student Council, see a solution in liberalising the present accommodation policy. They think more than the restricted 120 particular units (rooms, apartments) should be generated each year.
The Buurtbalans foundation, representing the interests of neighbourhoods where the number of student accommodations are rocketing out of control, urged in a letter to the city council (3 January) “emphatically” not to cast aside the present housing policy. They set great value by the 120 particular units and the upper limit of the number of student houses per street. In their view, a solution may be, just like the UM proposed, container apartments or other temporary housing.

The city council's policy on student housing will be evaluated at the end of 2018. Too late, writes the VVD fraction, which has posed questions to the municipal executive. The new academic year starts in August. They are hoping for less strict regulations of student accommodation in Maastricht. The CDA and PvdA fractions have also sounded the alarm and posed questions. Next week these will be answered (written) by the alderman.



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