Why we need more affordable accommodation options for students


Being alive in a big city is expensive in general, but being alive AND a student? Well, prepare to sell one of your organs.

When I was a student in Grahamstown my parents paid just under R4000 for a fully furnished, centrally located bachelor apartment.

In this same town, students sharing a place pay between R 2900 and R 3500 for modern, furnished apartments. These rates could practically be considered a myth in other South African university neighbourhoods like Rondebosch and Braamfontein. 

Read more: How far will my (small) salary go towards rent in different SA cities?

This is why UCT has appealed to property owners in the suburbs surrounding the university to help students in need as the university does not have enough residential accommodation for the students who need it. 

Supply versus demand

According to a press release, the Department of Higher Education suggests that universities should be offering lodgings to at least 50% to 80% of undergrads, but varsities are only managing to house less than half of what is required.

This could explain why some landlords exploit the situation and hike up rent prices because they know how desperate students are to live closer to campus, as living further away means forking out more for transport costs.

Image: STAG African

Family income levels

I don't know why people who offer services to students assume every student is Sol Kerzner's offspring. 

On average, the monthly take home salary for a middle class family is around R 12 715. This amount is a dream for the greater majority of low income families that do not fall into the middle class income bracket. Add black tax to that and you get families who cannot even afford to send more than one child to university.

I've seen students leave campus at the start of morning lectures because they had to stay on campus all night as a result of there being no internet at their digs.

Access to the tools of academic success

I think we can all agree that WiFi should be a basic human right, considering the internet is where you not only catch up on the latest news, but also get access to free PDF versions of textbooks, submit assignments, and apply for jobs and internships. 

Res has WiFi most of the time, but the students who live off campus don't always manage to find a place with internet access or live too far from campus to stay in the library late into the evening. 

I've seen students leave at the start of morning lectures because they had to stay on campus all night as a result of there being no internet access at their digs.

We all know how real the data struggle is and, with all the other costs of living a student has to face, they can really do without the extra expense.

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