University students are facing an uphill battle with accommodation - a challenge universities struggle to overcome. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA)
University students are facing an uphill battle with accommodation - a challenge universities struggle to overcome. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA)

Dire shortage of student accommodation 'could worsen'

By BULELWA PAYI Time of article published Feb 11, 2020

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Cape Town - Tertiary institutions face a chronic accommodation shortage as student numbers continue to increase.

A student accommodation developer warned that the crisis would get worse if not urgently addressed.

It is estimated that it costs up to R54 000 to finance a student bed a year. But students from low-income families and funded by the National Students Financial Aid Scheme usually receive between R31 000 and R35 000 a year for accommodation.

Co-founder of student accommodation developer STAG African, John Schooling, said there was a shortfall of more than 300 000 beds at universities and about 200 000 at Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges.

“It will take us between 10 and 20 years at a cost of up to R150 billion to solve the crisis,” Schooling warned.

The government donates about R4bn a year to institutions in the form of grants to meet accommodation needs.

Schooling said more efforts and financial investment were needed.

He said if they did this it would improve the students’ academic performance and health, and the country would be able to address the unemployment crisis and help grow the wealth."

Two universities in the province confirmed they were engaged in projects to improve accommodation.

Stellenbosch University said with a student population of more than 30 000 there were only 8 000 beds available. Of the number, about 2 300 beds were available for first-year students on the Stellenbosch and Tygerberg campuses. 

Spokesperson Martin Viljoen said: “There is always a demand for accommodation. The demand is high at the beginning of each year.”

The university received a grant from the Department of Higher Education and Training in the past financial cycle for three years for the upgrading of student housing. Martin said they were upgrading 323 beds in the Helshoogte Residence, of which 276 were ready. The rest would be ready next year. The university was considering developing 400 additional beds on a lease-to-own concept in partnership with a private developer.

At the University of Western Cape (UWC) about 3 390 bed spaces consisting of double and single rooms were available.

Spokesperson Gasant Abarder said: “The demand outweighs the supply."

He said the university was constantly exploring models and options to secure accommodation. Abarder said the cost of a bed was R36 000 a year, excluding transport and food but including other associated costs.  

A government grant received was used to co-fund the establishment of a residence of 2 700 beds. 

“It’s expected to commence construction in the first six months of 2020, of which the first phase will deliver 892 beds with the balance of 1 808 delivered during 2021. The first phase will be located adjacent to the Unibell train station abutting the university,” Abarder said.

Both universities said students who couldn’t find accommodation on campus were directed to accredited private accommodation suppliers.

STAG African has completed the first phase of a student village of 2047 beds at the University of Fort Hare.

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Weekend Argus

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