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Monday Feb 04, 2013

Berea residences having 'negative effect' on property values

Students drinking with under-age high school pupils, vandalism, graffiti, late-night noise and plunging property values.

These are just some of the problems neighbours of student residences in Glenwood and Musgrave are becoming increasingly concerned about.

Berea Court is an all-male residence and is one of three buildings operated by DUT in Glenwood and Musgrave.

Teachers at schools near the university residences are worried about the "toxic relationship" between university students and high school pupils. One senior teacher at Durban High School, which is close to a Durban University of Technology (DUT) residence, said there had been altercations where pupils and students had fought in the streets and that sometimes students offered pupils alcohol as they left the school.

"University students and some of our learners have fought and it's something that has happened more than once. Unfortunately, no one is willing to do anything about it. We have written letters to the university and received no response," said the teacher, who did not wish to be named.

Students at the DUT's Berea Court residence have also been blamed for acts of vandalism and graffiti in Glenwood. According to Stone Ndlovu, who owns a boutique near Berea Court, his shop has been vandalised three times since the building was turned into an allmale student accommodation early last year.

"It's really having a negative effect on us as people who have businesses in the area and we have tried to speak to security guards in the res to keep an eye out for any suspicious behaviour, but no one has been willing to do anything about these students. Some people have even considered moving their businesses to other places as a result," said Ndlovu.

In spite of several attempts to contact the housing departments at both University of KwaZulu-Natal and DUT, they could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

S'phelele Ngubane, a Berea Court resident, said students did not disturb the neighbourhood intentionally and sometimes they did it to protect themselves.

"There are times where students get left behind or they want to get back to residence at times where the buses are not available, so they decide to go in groups in case a thug tries to attack them. As they go in groups, that is when they get excited and interact, throw jokes and smash things up and residents would complain about noise in the area."

According to locals in the two areas, the presence of students has also made it difficult for them to sell and rent out flats and it is having an adverse effect on property values in the areas.

Brian Staple, who owns two blocks of flats in Glenwood, said people did not want to live in areas near students because of the noise and chaos they caused.

"It's very difficult for me as a property owner to be able to rent out flats and make a profit because now I have to decrease my rent because no one is willing to pay a premium for accommodation near students. And the fact that there is more than one res has just compounded the problem," he said.

Speaking about the decline of property value in areas with student accommodation, Myles Wakefield, the chief executive of Wakefields, said the decline of property quality in these areas was something that had been happening for at least the past five years.

"Areas around tertiary institutions have always been this way, and nothing has changed in the past five years. Possibly more properties have been purchased for student accommodation due to the demand. Most buyers who are wanting to purchase properties for owner occupation would not normally look in these areas," said Wakefield.

According to Louis Hartman, who is an independent estate agent in Glenwood and Musgrave, the entry of students and their unruly behaviour can often become a symptom of areas in decline.

"In most areas where there is a large number of students, the property values tend to be in flux and the presence of students often means that that area is not the ideal place to be for a lot of working-class people. So in this regard Glenwood and Musgrave are not the first to suffer from this problem - many inner city areas have suffered from this problem in the past."

The Independent on Saturday

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