“If the light shining in your eyes doesn't wake you because there are no curtains, then the builders will, with their radio, their planing and drilling, or the cleaning crew that has come to hoover,” says Danish law student Zana van Schayk who is sitting at a table with two fellow inhabitants on the eleventh floor of the former nurses flats. The view is beautiful, almost penthouse-worthy. But a penthouse it is not. Of course that isn't possible for a furnished room costing 395 euro all-in.
“It is very unpleasant for the students. At the moment they don't have the privacy that we would like them to have,” says Maurice Evers, department head of Maastricht University's student housing. “And although the building companies have delivered a great achievement in the space of nine weeks – permits and tenders were only complete at the end of June – the buildings have not been completed to the extent that we had wished. At the same time, the students do have a place to sleep. We hope that the worst will be over in two weeks’ time.”
The worst thing was that two weeks ago, when the first students had moved into the lower building next to this block of flats (four floors, 108 rooms), it appeared that the sewage system wasn't working as it should. “Toilets were getting clogged one after the other,” says Evers. “They had to start work last Saturday at seven o'clock in the morning: drilling into the floors, flooding.”
There are still jobs that need doing in the building: finishing off the rooms on the ground floor, installing bathroom doors, fixing the lift, and general finishing touches. Some things can wait, says Evers, such as painting the doors to the rooms, “maybe by Christmas when the students are not there.”
Groningen was recently in the news because first-year students had to sleep in tents due to the lack of rooms. Maastricht University wanted to prevent such situations and sounded the alarm bell with the city council at the end of last year concerning the persistent shortage of rooms. Container accommodation in Randwyck was briefly considered, but renovations to the two buildings on the Annadal campus appeared more realistic. Evers: “Looking back it was madness. Many wondered beforehand: ‘What are you taking on?’ ‘This is never going to work’. But what was the alternative? Except for a few, all additional rooms have been rented. Our other locations are full too.”
The Guesthouse rooms are very appealing to exchange students because they have everything from furniture to tableware. The short renting period is another advantage. Most of those who live in the new buildings are foreign bachelor's and master's students. They have a one-year contract and must move on to the housing corporations or the private sector when it expires.
In the meantime, it has become clear that those students who have suffered will receive a one-off compensation of 200 euro, as a gesture from the university and the owner of the buildings, All-in Real Estate from Amsterdam.
Read more: reportage Annadal