Student - September 9, 2010

Picking your own pocket

Financial interests of Idealis and Wageningen UR are standing in the way of a solution to the student housing problem.

Student housing agency Idealis does not seem to be in a hurry to accommodate the growing numbers of Wageningen students. Just like last year, about five hundred students are on the waiting list at this moment. Idealis would be pleased if this waiting list goes away in eight to nine months' time. The housing agency wants to have as little overcapacity as possible, since this costs money. Idealis has much to gain from a tight housing market with very few available units, whereas students stand to benefit from more accommodation. Idealis attaches too much importance to the company's economic interests and too little to its social interests, commented a director at Wageningen UR recently.
As for major land owner Wageningen UR, it wants to sell its Dreijen and Kortenoord grounds to project developers as expensive as possible. Idealis complains that the university is asking for land prices much too high to build student housing profitably. Wageningen UR also places its company interests before its social interests to provide housing for the growing number of students.
There are mitigating factors, though. Idealis does not want to build any more big student flats because this would lead to more lopsidedness in accommodation supply. However, small apartment complexes built on expensive land would be unaffordable for students and PhDs.
On the other hand, Wageningen UR is investing a lot of money - several hundred million euros - in the campus. It would have to get a high sum for its old buildings and grounds so that it does not need to borrow more from the capital market. Both organizations do not want to pick their own pockets. But, to paraphrase Jan Schaefer, you can't live in a pocket.