Because of the rooms shortage, Maastricht University’s Executive Board already introduced measures last week. Students with “serious problems” can take part in tutorials at a distance. This refers to the group who have difficulties to reach the faculty on time and frequently, said UM spokesperson Koen Augustijn. To make use of the new exception rule, students first need to make an appointment with the student advisor. “Online education continues to be an exception.”
“Something is better than nothing,” is the reaction by Moritz Takacs, student member of the University Council (for United Students of Maastricht), to the UM measures, but he hates that it had to come this far. And he still has a lot of questions. “We hope to receive answers from the Executive Board during the plenary meeting of the University Council [after Observant has gone to press, ed.] on Wednesday. We want exact figures of the number of students searching for accommodation. We have heard that 450 students have reached out to the International Service Desk, but most likely there are many more. We are also wondering what the story is with financial support. Students who are in financial trouble because of the high expenses of housing and travel, so the ‘demonstrable distressing cases’, can appeal to the UM’s emergency fund. But how are they going to implement that? And what about all kinds of other aspects that homeless international students have to deal with? They need an address for their visa, CSN number and any student jobs. And even more important: is there a permanent solution for the student housing problem?”
In the meantime, Takacs has - among others with fellow University Council member Freddy Leppert (KAN party) - copied an initiative from Groningen: SOSMaastricht. It is a couch surfing platform that connects those who have accommodation to offer with those who are seeking. Anyone who has an extra sofa, mattress or bed for a short or long period, can offer it on the SOS site. A homeless student is then brought in contact with him or her. Takacs: “We hope that more student associations will support this project.”
With the motto ‘every little bit helps’, the UM will make two building on the Heksenstraat temporarily available as student housing. This concerns about twenty rooms. The buildings, previously from youth care and education centre Xonar, will soon belong to the University College Maastricht. Whether the rooms will be offered via the Maastricht Housing site, is still being discussed, says Maurice Evers, head of Maastricht Housing. Maybe those ‘seriously duped’ will be given preference.
The city has not been able to magically produce a large vacant building, but is trying via agreements with hotel owners from Maastricht and Valkenburg (reductions for long stays) and discussions with letters and managers of vacant buildings to arrive at temporary solutions. Eleven homes in Gerlachus in Jekerdal are underway (to rent until January). This accommodation complex has recently been renovated. A number of apartments are still vacant; the city had reserved these for victims of the flooding in Limburg in July. However, hardly any use was made of this. The apartments of about 55 square metres are not cheap, Evers says, but the price (which is still not clear) can be divided by two, because two people can live there.
Evers especially hammers home the need for an “overflow location” where not just students, but also people with temporary admission can come when the need is great. Alderman Vivanne Heijnen also sees that something has to happen on the housing market, in the short term and the long term. She wants to prevent at all cost the city ending up in the same situation next year. “Most likely, this will include a form of temporary accommodation, looking at the long turnaround time for new buildings and reallocation”, she wrote in a letter to the city council. What temporary locations she is thinking about, is not clear.