Nieuws - 26 augustus 2010

Housing shortfall will go on

The demand for student rooms in Wageningen goes on growing, whereas the supply by housing corporations does not. Idealis cannot keep up, even with its building plans for next year.

Five years ago, after years of falling student numbers, Wageningen had 4,400 students. Student housing provider Idealis was faced with empty student flats to the tune of about 700 rooms, and decided to have the Rijnsteeg building demolished. No sooner had this been done than student numbers began to rise again. By last year, numbers were up to 5,735: three hundred more than the University and Idealis had thought possible two years ago, even in their most optimistic scenario. That 2008 prognosis assumed a growth of 10 percent per year, and is the basis of Idealis's current strategy.
The student housing corporation bases its calculations on a further growth by about four to five hundred students per year. In the coming academic year, Idealis expects 5,850 students in Wageningen, and 6,750 in the academic year 2012-2013. This prognosis means that Idealis needs 1,000 extra student rooms for the university. The arrival of Stoas University of Applied Sciences in Wageningen means that another hundred rooms are needed on top of that.
With this in mind, Idealis plans to invest in new housing over the next few years. Next year, a new building with 330 rooms will go up at the Rijnsteeg, where the demolished tower block once stood. This building will be ready in 2012. A further 650 rooms will go up in 2013 and 2014, of which 250 will replace the university's temporary accommodation at the Haarweg. So there will be more than 700 new rooms, but that still leaves a shortage of about 400 rooms when compared to the predicted rise in demand by 1,100.
And it is thought that this estimate is too optimistic, as the university is growing faster than expected. There are already 6,200 students for the coming academic year, and that number will grow - according to last year's prognosis - to more than 7,000 students in 2014, says Wageningen UR spokesman Simon Vink. 'This academic year we will be welcoming 1,700 new BSc and MSc students. And then there are new PhD students and European exchange students to add to that. Even without any additional growth in the coming years, that takes us to at least 7,200 BSc and MSc students. At current growth rates that could rise to more than 8,000.'
If this projection proves true, there will be a shortage of at least 1,000 rooms. Wageningen University is growing faster than the optimists predicted a few years ago. And Idealis has hardly invested in any new housing complexes over the past few years.
'Further expansion was absolutely not necessary in recent years', responds Idealis director Hans van Medenbach. 'Even this year there is not a permanent shortage of rooms.'
There are currently about 500 students on Idealis's waiting list, about the same as last year. Last academic year, Idealis had offered all students a room by May. Until that time, they commuted from their parental homes, found a room on the private market or sub-rented a room. The private rental market has absorbed about 100 extra students in the past few years. But whether there is any scope for further growth there, nobody knows. The municipal council has now asked the university and landlords for figures for a housing market research. The best guess is that the private rental market has reached capacity already.

Accommodation guarantee
The university reserves 1,200 rooms per year with Idealis for international students. This is because foreign students are guaranteed accommodation if they successfully apply to Wageningen University. It is difficult to predict how many will actually come, however. During the peak arrival time this year, more than 400 extra rooms are needed for this group, says Vink. Last year the university itself put up 250 extra rooms on the Haarweg. And this year, 350 international students are going into temporary accommodation at the Hof van Wageningen hotel, just until student rooms become available for them.
A shortage of rooms in September is unavoidable, says Idealis. New students all arrive at once in September, whereas departures by graduates are spread over the whole year. 'If you were to put up all the new students straightaway, you would end up with hundreds of empty rooms in the course of the year. The highways in the Netherlands are not built for maximum capacity either, that's why you get traffic jams in the rush hour', says Idealis director Hans van Medenbach. So as far as he's concerned, Wageningen does not have a problem. 'Of all the student housing corporations in the Netherlands, Idealis gets students rooms the fastest - after Twente.'/Alexandra Branderhorst and Albert Sikkema