The activists want to put pressure on the university and the municipality “to make them work on solutions and solve the problem”, and in doing so they follow the example of SOS Groningen (see photo), according to their petition on change.org. The Groningen group Shelter Our Students demonstrated at the beginning of September on the Grote Markt in Groningen and subsequently occupied the university’s Academy building. After eight hours of negotiations, some of their demands were granted. “Their action has been successful”, responds a third-year European Studies, one of the initiators of the Maastricht Student Housing Now. He definitely doesn’t want his name in Observant (not out of fear, he says, “we want to come forward as a group”).
Can we expect an occupation of the Minderbroedersberg? “We definitely don’t want to create unnecessary conflict or an escalation of any kind,” he says. “We don’t wish to proceed to more disruptive actions unless absolutely necessary.”
The initiators of Student Housing Now themselves are victims of the rooms shortage in Maastricht or empathise with the plight of those looking for a room. “For years, students and employees at Maastricht University have warned that this situation might occur, but very little has been done. It is always difficult to find a room in August and September, but this year it is exceptional,” says the student European Studies.
Four like-minded students, “supported by a wider circle of twenty students,” drew up a petition. So far (Wednesday 20 October), it has been signed almost five hundred times. According to the group, this is a sign that there is support for action, despite the temporary solutions in the form of online education for the victims and about fifty additional rooms in the city. “There are still about 100 to 150 students homeless. Not to mention the group that lives in Heerlen or Valkenburg, or those who pay excessively high rent for a small apartment in Maastricht. That is unacceptable.”
They understand that the UM itself can’t build houses for students, “but they can use their influence to get something done by the city. The important thing now is that a temporary solution is found.” They see plenty of vacant buildings, from schools to offices. “And why not use the former prison in Limmel?”
Furthermore, the group wants more information to be provided about all kinds of housing matters. In addition to being told to start searching on time, there should also be a warning about scammers and discrimination. A UM working group should act on this. “Students must be made aware of the situation in Maastricht.”
A crisis like the present one must, at all cost, be prevented in the future, the student European Studies emphasizes. “I read that there will be a thousand extra student rooms by 2023, a great initiative, but way too few. In the coming time, the UM will grow to 25 thousand students. That is four thousand extra students! Where are they all going to live?” Educational institutes must make a choice, as far as the activists are concerned: either more housing or take on fewer students.