‘Gross safety violations’ were uncovered at this building in Berta Mkhize (Victoria) Street. Sibonelo Ngcobo
Durban - THE eThekwini municipality is soon to pass a policy on student accommodation, which will govern where such accommodation is established, the infrastructure and suitability to house students.

Existing facilities which do not meet the proposed criteria, including by overcrowding students in dilapidated buildings and run-down houses in Durban suburbs, will be forced to comply or shut down.

Last week, the council’s Economic Development and Planning Committee approved the draft policy, which aims to improve student accommodation decision-making processes. The policy is yet to be presented for public comment before being tabled for approval later this month.

The mushrooming of student accommodation in suburbs and urban areas because of the influx of students from rural areas to the city is a nationwide concern.

In Durban, property developers are reportedly cashing in on the fact that eThekwini Municipality does not have a policy on student accommodation zones in residential areas.

Concerns brought to the attention of the city include students being crowded into tiny accommodation units by landlords out to make money.

Other concerns of affected residents include the mushrooming of brothels, causing residential property values in these areas to drop.

The aim of the project, according to the municipality, is to put in place a planning and management tool that will direct student accommodation in and around the UKZN campus.

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city was trying to contain student accommodation and reduce infiltration into the wider residential areas.

“The policy will guide where this happens. The aim of the project is to put in place a planning and management tool that will direct student accommodation in and around the UKZN campus proactively. The policy proposes a set of principles that will be used by applicants to submit an operational/management plan with their planning application.”

Mayisela said this would also assist in reducing some of the challenges residents faced around the UKZN precinct regarding student accommodation.

DA Economic Development and Planning whip Marlaine Nair said the policy envisaged the identification of suitable precincts for student accommodation and thereafter designation of these precincts for this purpose. Thereafter, applicants wanting to set up student accommodation would have to apply and meet the stringent criteria, which included the assessment of infrastructure and its suitability to support student accommodation.

She said while the DA understood the concerns residents have of student accommodation popping up in their neighbourhoods, and the associated challenges, there was an urgent need for safe accommodation for students as campuses were overcrowded.

If the establishment owners or students engage in the mismanagement of the accommodation or the flouting of by-laws, they would be held to account and face the possibility of closure.

IFP Economic Development and Planning whip Nessa Bhanprakash said they welcomed the proposal, provided it would be rolled out in consultation with residents in affected areas, and done in a manner that did not degrade the privacy of the residents.

“If there are multiple objections to the student accommodation, the council should take them seriously and not forcefully go on with the proposed accommodation project,” he said.

Daily News