Arrival of the first units in June 2020, Joey Roberts
UM concerned because of legal problems between student housing company and the city
MAASTRICHT. Are the 252 prefab homes in Randwyck independent living units for which the inhabitant can apply for rent benefits? Or should they be ‘regular’ student rooms according to the permit issued? This has caused a conflict between Studentenhuisvesting Maastricht and the city of Maastricht. The University Council is concerned. Huurteam Zuid-Limburg is looking into the inhabitants’ questions.
“Until now, students have received rent subsidy for their accommodation on the Salernolaan, but that may no longer be possible in the future,” says Maurice Evers, head of the UM’s student housing, last week to the council members of a University Council committee. It is not the only thing worrying him and the Executive Board. They hope that this “unpleasant situation”, according to Evers, doesn’t have too much of a negative effect on future developers and on Maastricht as a student city.
It concerns the 252 homes on the Salernolaan in Randwyck by the company Studentenhuisvesting Maastricht (SHM). The accommodation units were created last summer after it had been clear for years that there was a shortage of affordable student homes in Maastricht. The cabins, or ‘container homes’, were assembled in a factory in Panningen and transported to Maastricht as complete units. They will be allowed to stay in place for ten years.
According to Evers, about eighty to a hundred rooms are occupied at the moment. The basic rent is 427 euro, which is excluding more than 200 euro service costs, furnishing costs and a maintenance contract. All units have their own cooker, cooker hood and bathroom. That gives the tenant – if there is insufficient income – a right to rent subsidy. The city, however, states that the permit issued was not for independent homes. They are demanding that the cookers and cooker hoods be removed. Studentenhuisvesting Maastricht doesn’t agree and took the matter to court. SHM won the dispute. The city does not concur with this and will go to court again (28 April).
Student and University Council member Luc van Galen wonders how this could happen. “Were no proper agreements made beforehand? About the rent, about the type of housing? We wanted affordable housing; how can the rent then be 600+ euro?”
Evers explains that the university cannot be held responsible. Yes, the UM wanted something to be built on the undeveloped land [where the sports hall used to be, ed.], but chose not to take on the building itself. “We applied a long lease of the land, allowing the developer to use the land. We didn’t make any agreements on the exact design or about independent/dependent homes. That made no difference to us, as long as they are of good quality and affordable.”
Evers says that the problem lies with the developer, who deviated from the permit granted by the city during the building of the units. Van Galen feels “that the students again have to deal with the crap”.
Huurteam Zuid-Limburg [previously Housing Helpdesk, affiliated to the university, ed.] is currently making an inventory of “the tenants’ rights. It is a complicated case”, Rick Blezer summarises. Should the judge decide in favour of the city and the cookers and cooker hoods have to be removed, then Blezer thinks the students are still living in independent homes, for example, because of their separate bathrooms, but without kitchen facilities. A “lame situation,” says Blezer, as a result of which the rent tribunal could determine that inhabitants receive a maximum of 60 per cent reduction on the basic rent.
Moreover: if rent subsidies no longer apply, while the letting agency advertises this, then it could be held responsible for the damages suffered.
In answer to questions by Observant to Peter Broekmans, director of SHM, a letter was received that was also sent to the members of Maastricht city council. In it, he makes it clear that “the 252 rooms have been built in compliance with all regulations”.