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Friday Apr 19, 2013

Joburg residents cash in on lack of student accomodation

Enterprising Joburg residents are cashing in on the failure of big institutions like Wits and the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) failure to provide on-campus accommodation.

Suburbs near these institutions have seen the mushrooming of communes. Some residents are afraid that these communes, some of them illegal and run-down, will reduce the market price of their properties.

Universities like Wits and UJ are enrolling more students than they can accommodate, which has led to a higher demand for accommodation.

Some legal commune operators are also bitter about unregistered ones. Ward 69 councillor Katja Naumann said UJ was accrediting some illegal communes, which meant they were supporting illegal business.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) pays accommodation fees directly to accredited institutions, meaning that if they pay illegal operators, by default, they are also supporting illegal business.

The City of Joburg formulated guidelines to regulate the conversion of houses into communes in the Commune Policy of 2009.

Naumann said only 37 out of 150 communes were legal, and claimed the NSFAS was funding illegal communes because UJ did not check whether the communes were legal before accrediting them.

Responding to Naumann's claims, media spokesman Herman Esterhuizen said there were two types of off-campus accommodation for UJ students. "Those that have applied and are accredited or not accredited (NSFAS), and those that do not apply for accreditation but accommodate cash-paying students.

"The latter are not part of the UJ-accredited accommodation. There is a policy on accredited off-campus accommodation which is approved by the university.

"All commune owners are given the policy, which explains the accreditation process.

"Application for accreditation of communes starts in August and ends in October. A team is sent to evaluate each property that has applied for accreditation. Communes are accredited according to set criteria," Esterhuizen said.

He added that UJ verified whether a commune was legal. UJ collaborated closely with stakeholders such as the council's department of urban planning and development .

UJ's office of student accommodation and residence life followed up on all accredited communes and properties.

Rob Sharman, the director of residence life at Wits University, said Wits did not accredit providers of external accommodation. However, it did afford recognition status to major accommodation providers whose premises were within easy walking distance of the campus, and were reasonably sound and clean.

Mpho Macheke, a third-year UJ student, said it was challenging to find accommodation that was clean, safe and worth the amount charged.

The Star




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