2015-12-02 06:00

A PETITION is circulating in Wards 33 and 36 requesting that the Policy on Norms and Standards Policy for Student Accommodation be incorporated into the municipal processes and procedures dealing with applications for special consent and rezoning regarding off-campus student accommodation.

This comes after numerous meetings have been held regarding student accommodation in the Scottsville and Pelham areas as many residential-zoned areas have become off-campus student digs.

The issue of legal and illegal off-campus student accommodation in the area surrounding DUT and UKZN continues to grow becoming a bigger problem each year with the number of students accepted into tertiary institutions increasing, and with it, the demand for accommodation.

At a meeting earlier this year, the sub-committee proposed for a move towards student villages which will not only help residents in the area, but will also provide students with proper, hygienic accommodation at an affordable price.

It was explained that occupants of many of these properties were often being exploited by developers with little concern for the welfare and well-being of the students.

Overcrowding and unhygienic conditions are commonplace in many digs. The lack of adequate management and control at many of the student digs lead to misbehaviour and rowdiness by the occupants to the frustration of neighbours.

In order to address the issue a concerted and co-ordinated approach needs to be adopted in finding suitable solutions to the challenges and land should be specifically designated for student villages and not erected in special residential areas.

John Schooling, chair of Stag African, experts in the development of world-class student accommodation in southern Africa was the guest speaker at a recent meeting. Stag African recently completed the development of a student village in Stellenbosch.

During his presentation, Schooling highlighted the fact that tertiary education in South Africa faces a crisis because of the lack of affordability.

“It has become too expensive and, with the cost of accommodation included, way beyond the reach of the general population.”

The petition was therefore developed.

“If implemented, will effectively control the casual way in which houses, especially in the Scottsville and Pelham areas, are bought and changed by developers, often without regard to health and safety considerations, and rented out to students at exorbitant rentals.

“In my mind, this practice amounts to nothing less than the gross exploitation of students who have nowhere else to stay. They are, as it were, a captive audience,” said Councillor Vic Winterbach of Ward 36.

Signing the petition means that the person agrees to a request that the municipality steps in and addresses the situation in Scottsville and Pelham and looks at the possible rezoning of certain areas.

While this area cannot completely ignore the needs of students because of the close proximity to various tertiary institutions, better emphasis needs to be put on meeting the needs of both the students and the residents amicably.

“We need to meet as a team and source alternate housing for the students because they cannot just be kicked out of the boarding houses, they will have no place to go,” said Winterbach.

>> overcrowding;

>> hygiene;
>> inadequate
management; and

>> misbehaviour and
occupant rowdiness

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