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Extra student rooms: UM is waiting on the city council

Extra student rooms: UM is waiting on the city council

Photographer:Fotograaf: Flickr.com/ Nan Palmero

MAASTRICHT. Before the start of the next academic year, Maastricht University want to place 250 renovated container dwellings for students on their own premises in Randwyck, where once the Calatrava campus should have been built. The units previously stood in Amsterdam, but need to be removed after a designated period of ten years. The UM sees it as a quick and temporary solution to the shortage of affordable student accommodation. Now it is just waiting on the go-ahead from the city council.

“We would prefer to leave student housing to the market and the housing corporations, but because of the temporary failure, regardless who or what has caused this, we will have to find a short-term solution,” says Nick Bos, vice president of the UM's Executive Board and chairman of the Maastricht student housing association. Students coming here next August who are again unable to find accommodation or who have to resort on the more expensive segment (Carré, Student Hotel with rents of more than 700 euro): this won't do the UM's reputation any good. Bos: “We want to be a university for everyone. We don't want selection based on expensive accommodation.”

More than a month ago, the UM sounded the alarm bell in a letter to the city council. The Maastricht housing market appears especially difficult for students who are not so well off. In addition, students appeared to experience difficulties finding a room not only in August and September, the UM wrote in its the letter. This time, the annual peak lasted longer, even up to the beginning of December, says Bos.
Bos is now aiming for Amsterdam container dwellings – contrary to what the name suggests, it is decent accommodation – but although the envisaged campus grounds in Randwyck are UM premises, co-operation from the city council is desirable. For example, the zoning scheme will have to allow accommodation planning. Whether everything will be ready on time, is the question. In the meantime, the UM is creating seventy additional rooms at the Guesthouse on the Brouwersweg.
The alderman responsible, Gert-Jan Krabbendam, “is thinking along with the UM” about temporary facilities with affordable rents (250 euro), at least for the coming academic year. Container dwellings in Randwyck are one of the options, but other options and locations are also being looked into. Exactly what those are, Krabbendam prefers not to comment on. In addition, the city council will speed up the work on the south wing of the Leeuwenborgh College on the Adelbert van Scharnlaan (fifty independent student rooms in the mid-segment).

In answer to the question whether the city council should relax its accommodation policy, as the Maastricht Student Council and the association of landlords (Vereniging Verhuurders Woonruimtes Maastricht) wanted, is of an entirely different order, Krabbendam reckons. Just like the answer to the question whether there is a structural shortage. Krabbendam: “We want to know if the recent development was a peak or a deviation from the trend.” In other words: Is there, indeed, a need in the long term for more rooms in the lower rents segment or are we creating lack of occupancy in other buildings, for example in those of the housing corporations? The city council is collecting definite registration figures from the UM and Zuyd Hogeschool and information from estate agencies, landlords and neighbouring municipalities in order to have a complete picture. Krabbendam: “We mustn't waver because we are running willy-nilly after one party.” At the end of 2018, the policy for splitting, converting and reassigning living accommodations will be evaluated. The alderman feels that there is no need to do so any sooner.

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