Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
There was an anonymous letter, signed by the “friendly students Musketruwes” with complaints about harassment in their neighbourhood Malberg and the distance to the city centre. Observant and the Executive Board found the letter in their letterboxes recently. “If they do not report matters to us, then we cannot do anything for them,” reacted the Kamerburo and the Guesthouse who rent furnished rooms on Musketruwe 131.
Malberg is an area on the outskirts of Maastricht, which was built at the beginning of the 1960s. The apartment buildings, three and four stories high, which dominate the Musketruwe, are right on the Belgian border. There are a lot of unoccupied flats; the buildings are scheduled to be demolished. ”We have a contract with housing association Servatius for two years,” says Maurice Evers, head of the Kamerburo. The university rents 131 furnished rooms, in a total of almost fifty apartments. Three or four students share the accommodation.
Arriving by bicycle - about a 20-minute ride from the city centre - one sees two opposites: the beautiful open view of nature and the shabby apartment buildings, of which most basement windows have been replaced by wooden planks. You really have to look carefully to see a sign of life. Does anyone live behind those broken vertical blinds or not? Where Merry Xmas has been painted on the window, the lights are on, and there are plants on the windowsill, that is clearly the case.
“We hear from other students that there are much better locations,” the anonymous students write in their letter. “This accommodation is in our opinion not suitable for students. (…) There are drug dealers, aggressive boys, hookers and [it is] much too far away from the student life.” Maurice Evers has no idea who wrote the letter. “It is a pity, because if we knew who it was, we could talk about it and perhaps arrange other accommodation.”
The Executive Board decided in January that more furnished rooms were needed, mainly for the non-European students. Evers: “When we had stands at international study fairs, we noticed that other universities often offered not only study courses but also a place to live. That combination is appreciated.”
The Musketruwe is a small ‘campus project’, funded, furnished and maintained by Maastricht University. The UM arranged that an assistant from General and Technical Services and a so-called campus counsellor from the communication department also lived on the premises. The latter is Chantalle Berghmans. “I look at what the students like and don’t like, what they need. I am now negotiating with the Veolia bus company for a reduced-fare bus pass. Many students have bicycles, but find the distance a bit too far.”
Observant asked a number of inhabitants about the anonymous letter; nobody knows about it. Asked about the complaints that were mentioned, opinions are divided. With the exception of Belgian Malik Bahizi, nobody wants to have his or her name printed in the newspaper. Bahizi is content. “Living here is fine; a real family neighbourhood. My roommate moved recently, because he found something cheaper. I hope a new student moves in quickly, because I prefer to live with two rather than alone.” A Finish student and Latvian student feel that the rent of 350 euros per month (including gas, water, electricity and Internet) is a bit on the high side. While the Finish student never had problems with aggression or vandalism, a German student does not feel at ease when she comes home in the evening. “Our letterbox was demolished; letters were stolen. Next year, the annual contract will be up, so by that time I will look for something else.” A British student has already left. “I now live in the Céramique district, closer to the centre. The Musketruwe was far away. I thought the flats were not too bad. They were furnished quite beautifully.”
Maurice Evers: “Anyone who wanted, could cancel the contract after three months; 15 November was an important date, but only six left. By Maastricht standards, Malberg is indeed far from the centre, but all is relative; compare it to New York, for example. Before we rented the flats from Servatius, most of them were empty. There were anti-squatters tenants. And yes, there was prostitution in some basements, even when our students lived there, but we immediately called in security company Securitas and the police. That has now been solved.”