File photo: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA).

Johannesburg - The City of Johannesburg said on Friday that a workshop with various institutions of higher learning and their student representatives had been held to discuss how they could assist in the provision of affordable, quality student accommodation.

"While student accommodation is not the competency of the city, we recognise that there is a growing demand for safe and affordable options for students throughout the city. In light of the demand, the city is committed to playing a proactive role in addressing these challenges," the city's MMC of Development Planning Reuben Masango said.

"To this end, the city is finalising a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the University of South Africa (Unisa) and various TVET colleges," Masango said. 

"The MoU identifies key areas of collaboration between the city and universities represented, with student accommodation identified as a primary concern."

The workshop that was held on Thursday was attended by representatives from UJ, Wits, Central Johannesburg Technical College, Unisa, the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) and the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco).

"Since the launch of the Inner City Revitalisation Programme in October 2017, 154 City-owned properties have been released by council for mixed-use development by the private sector. A portion of these properties will be earmarked for development for student accommodation," Masango said.

"Joshco is completing the ‘Nederburg Building Project’, which is the first building to be used for student accommodation. Targeted for completion in June this year, it will provide 120 beds for students. In addition to this, an additional three projects are in the pipeline with Joshco, and will add an additional 1,257 beds, and JPC is working to identify strategic land parcels or properties located in close proximity to institutions of higher learning that could be used for the development of student accommodation."

The city said the workshop also provided a platform for representatives from the learning institutions and students to highlight their requirements and give input into the city’s existing programmes. 

"Issues raised by the institutions of higher learning included the collaboration in the design of student precincts, affordability of student accommodation, correct profiling of students who should benefit from this project, public safety for student accommodation located off campus, and the availability and access to social amenities."

Masango said he believed that it was crucial to make studying as free as possible from unnecessary stresses like finding affordable accommodation.

"I am looking forward to further collaboration with these institutions of higher learning through the MoU. This will undoubtedly bring the necessary change needed in order to allow students to thrive."

African News Agency/ANA