Student - May 28, 2009

MUDSLINGING DOESN’T SOLVE HOUSING SHORTAGE

There are not enough rooms in Wageningen for the growing numbers of students. Wageningen UR and Idealis housing corporation blame each other for this, accusing each other of profit seeking or ‘making a fuss about uncertainties’. Meanwhile, there’s no building going on.
An analysis.

Wageningen UR plans to turn two univer¬sity buildings on the Haarweg into temporary residences. That’s if the Municipal council issues the three permits needed for this. The university wants to help foreign students to get a room in town more quickly. It won’t be enough, and next year again there are sure to be students temporarily housed in holiday chalets.

Meanwhile, Idealis, which mainly rents student accommodation, is haunted by the idea of empty rooms. A few years ago , the corporation demolished the Rijnsteeg block of flats. Now that students numbers have gone up again, the date by which students can be sure of having a room has shifted from 1 February to 1 May. Idealis acts as if this does not represent a shortage. But Dutch first-years are travelling up and down from home for longer and longer before they can find a room.

There’s no question of more building for the time being, and the university and Idealis blame each other for that. The university thinks Idealis is making a fuss about the uncertainty issue, and Idealis thinks that the university expects too much and does too little in return. For example, the institution doesn’t want to sell land to Idealis for less than the market price. The housing corporation, on the other hand, runs the risk of student numbers falling again, and being left with unrented rooms. Although Idealis’s aims are social, it does have to keep afloat financially.

Renting individual rooms is quite a job, what with the various standards rooms have to meet, and the large numbers of tenants involved. The Wageningen housing association (Woningstichting) therefore prefers to concentrate on local people who want to rent flats and houses. And the private housing market adapts to rises and falls in student numbers, but can’t always meet demand.
The ease with which students can find a room is a factor in the university’s success. If Wageningen UR wants to remain attractive to students, wherever they come from, there will have to be a lot more rooms in the short term, and students will have to be able to choose where they live.
Wageningen UR owns a lot of potential building land, but refuses to sell it for a ‘social’ price. On this basis, no party can build affordable accommodation, certainly not at the risk of it standing empty.

It is time that the management of Wageningen UR and Idealis sweated it out in the sauna together, and massaged each other’s sore spots away. In the current market, Dutch students are best off quickly finding a couple of nice flatmates, and talking nicely to their parents. After all, there are plenty of flats for sale in Wageningen, and they will hold their value for the time being.

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